Sweets have gone subversive. Celebrity cake designers on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” and TLC’s “Ultimate Cake Off” have elevated both the artistry and the wicked factor to construct deliciously evil creations. And, if you have been to a “Twilight” or “True Blood” viewing party anytime recently, you know that scary treats are now a year-round tradition.
With this much inspiration, skip the jack-o’-lantern cake pops this year. With the right tools and techniques, you can make spine-tingling treats with all the, er, trimmings — from mummy gauze and eyeball veins to spattered blood and human skin (shudder).
The importance of tools is apparent as soon as you enter the Oakland, Calif., headquarters of Debbie Does Cakes, an industrial kitchen where drills, pliers, serrated knives and wire cutters hang above stainless steel sinks like a scene out of “Dexter.” Clearly, he’s not the only blood-spatter expert — and this is no venue for making kindergarten classroom treats.
Celebrated cake artist Debbie Goard’s bizarre, off-putting and often disgusting sculpted cakes — can of worms, anyone? — have earned a devoted following on the Food Network and on Facebook, where fans from around the world visit to see what devilish treats she will bake in time for Halloween.
“It doesn’t have to be bloody to be creepy,” says Goard in her warm, Southern drawl as she sails through the kitchen, pointing out a Chihuahua cake that has a head too big for its body. Talk about creepy.
Most of the designs featured in her new book, “Twisted Cakes” (Harper, $19.99, 128 pages), are made from a combination of cake, modeling chocolate and fondant. The book is filled with illustrated instructions and templates to help re-create Goard’s intricately iced gravestones, Siamese pigs and tortured teddy bears, if that’s your thing. She can even make a candy bar scary.
“You wouldn’t believe how easy maggots are,” says Goard, whose work has been featured on “Food Network Challenge” and been commissioned by Google and Apple. “It’s just pinches of white fondant scored with a modeling tool and airbrushed ivory-gray.”
Color is critical to creepiness, especially when it doesn’t occur in nature, says Candace Nelson, the founder of Los Angeles-based cult favorite Sprinkles Cupcakes and Ice Cream, which recently opened an outpost in Palo Alto. Work colors such as blue and purple and gray into your pastries, she suggests.
“It breaks all the rules for what is appetizing,” Nelson says. “It’s so wrong, but it strikes a chord.” Earlier this year, Nelson and “Hostel” director Eli Roth judged a round on “Cupcake Wars.” The competition was fierce, she says: “We saw severed fingers, open wounds and glass shards.”
Her tips: Red piping gel is a dead-ringer for blood, especially when mixed with green to give it that darker, hemoglobin effect. Mummy strings? Rolled fondant. Glass? Cook sugar, then cool and break apart.
But often, it takes nothing more than one simple step to transform something simple, like a white cake, into a centerpiece of horror. To create the spattered blood on her “Frosty Split” wedding cake, Goard dips a stiff, hard paintbrush into a mixture of super-red airbrush color and white opaque gel color. Then she flings and flecks to desired effect.
And if you’re willing to work from the real thing, you can make just about anything, including the “gauze” wrapped around Goard’s rendition of the swaddled, alienlike newborn in David Lynch’s “Eraserhead.” She says, “I just flattened my white fondant onto strips of gauze.”
Is that why her severed arm cake looks so realistic?
“I looked at medical books for those,” Goard says, reassuringly.
©2012 Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)
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