Cake Decoration is America's New National Pastime: What Does That Say About Us? Cake Decoration is America's New National Pastime: What Does That Say About Us?
Lifestyle

Cake Decoration is America's New National Pastime: What Does That Say About Us?

by Nicola Twilley

January 9, 2011

Over at Design Observer, Jessica Helfand observes a sub-theme to the nightly onslaught of reality TV: "nearly half a dozen programs devoted to extreme displays of, well, frosting."

Between the Food Network's Ace of Cakes and Cupcake Wars, TLC's Cake Boss, Ultimate Cake-Off, and DC Cupcakes, and WE-TV's Amazing Wedding Cakes and Wedding Cake Wars, we are undoubtedly living in what Current TV calls, with only a tinge of sarcasm, "the golden age of cake television."

Those of you who have been trapped in a cave without cable TV (or live in countries where sprinkles and buttercream are not a national obsession) will have no idea of the extremes of design and engineering involved in these cake creations. As Helfand notes, these are most certainly not your grandmother's cakes:

Who among us knew, for example, that Rice Crispy Treats provide reliable structural foundations for life-size confections, or that chocolate comes in a flexible consistency akin to plasticine? Or that fondant—that smooth-as-glass icing that graces the surfaces of so many layered masterpieces—can be stretched and torqued and thinned to quarter-inch perfection through a giant metal machine? There are airbrushes and carving tools and colors not found in nature, sheer pastes and gilt powders and best of all, digital printers that, improbably, produce perfect little edible photographs.


 

Each of the resulting cakes is a unique personal expression of taste, created on a mechanical production line. What's more, the process, write the designers, "forces people to think about the amount of decoration they actually like." Judging on the evidence gathered so far, Loos—and with him, civilization itself—is out of luck.

Images: A cake made by Cake Boss's Buddy Valastro, via Design Observer, and Mischer’Traxler’s “Till You Stop” cake-decorating machine and sketches, via Dezeen.

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Cake Decoration is America's New National Pastime: What Does That Say About Us?