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How to Create the ‘Wow Effect’ with Optical Illusion Cakes by Luc Debove

Fake cakes are all the rage on social media, largely in part due to the ‘Is it Cake?’ series on Netflix. This growing phenomenon has inspired a new program dedicated to artistic pastry and creating artistic cakes that are not plastic, but edible.

On the eight-week Expert Diploma in Artistic Pieces, which begins at École Ducasse – École Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie (ENSP) on 3rd July, pastry chefs have the opportunity to learn how to develop artistic creations, in particular for the production of sweets in the style of optical illusion. The focus will be on the production of sculptures made of chocolate, sugar and ice, as well as wedding cakes, croquembouches, and nougatine pieces. The training is designed to give pastry chefs all the necessary tools to face an every-growing demand from the sector, and make these ‘wow effect’ cakes real, combining the good and the beautiful.

We will use all the techniques of sweet art, illustrated by the 21 pastry chefs who reside at ENSP, and without wishing to divulge every aspect of the ‘toolkit’ we will share on the program, here are my three top tips for creating optical illusion cakes.

  1. Always flavour first

Whilst there is obvious excitement about the ‘look’ of optical illusion cakes, the process for making them is so important and you must not to forget the flavour. I always like to use a sponge cake, with marmalade and cream butter for my base, and then on top you can add your sugar paste. With the biscuit and soft cream you can create an amazing balance for the flavour. Great tasting, great presentation combined. 

  1. Temperature check

When you are developing your artistic piece, you will most likely use chocolate, sugar or ice techniques. Both the temperature, and potentially the time of day/the conditions you have to work in, would impact the timings for these. For example, with chocolate, your work may take place earlier in the day than with ice. To do this well, however, you also need to have both basic pastry and special cutting tools. It sounds simple, but it is these details that are important.

  1. Plan your transportation

So you have invested time in flavour and getting the artistic piece to perfection, and what is your process for putting it on the table? If you do not have the correct size and structure of a box to carry the cake all your hard work could be lost. Take care when you are travelling with the cake so it does not break and retain the wow effect.

Why is this important? We always want more from pastry chefs. We are always on the hunt for novelty and all pastry chefs should be able to invest in their training to enrich their creations with ice sculptures, sugar work and other similar pieces.

This also expands the possibilities for your work. In my career, I have created wedding cakes worth €50,000, and I have made ice sculptures for Fiat, Ferrari and Ducati. Brands love to have ‘fake cake’ as representing their brand as part of their promotional exposure. When a guest or client has a special idea, it is better to be a pastry chef who says ‘I can’. It enhances your credibility. This is why I think that investing in a course like this Expert Diploma in Artistic Pieces pays for itself, even with a single cake.

All pastry chefs must have the opportunity to make incredible, new things that are more beautiful than those of their competitors, that is why we love what we do. When it becomes known that a pastry chef and his team offer novelties at high levels of excellence, this creates new opportunities, including with hotels, gastronomic restaurants, palaces, weddings and major corporate events, where you can really take pleasure in enhancing the guest or customer experience through your artistic creation.

Luc Debove is Executive Pastry Chef at École Ducasse – École Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie (ENSP), a world-renowed school in the arts of pastry and ice cream located in Yssingeaux in the Haute-Loire region of France. To find out more about the Expert Diploma in Artistic Pieces, go to https://www.ecoleducasse.com/Experts/expert-diploma-in-artistic-pieces-fr.

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