Monday, August 20, 2007

Gilding the Rose

I love roses, be they in the form of a beautiful perfume or to lend a heady quality to an exotic sweet. And when called upon to produce something pretty, my favourite decorative motif fallback is the rose. So when a friend asked if I could make something with a floral theme, the choice was clear. I also wanted the something to be ultra feminine and luxurious in feel, something that would be as statuesque and charming as my friend is (who, quite aside from being a genuinely lovely person, is lovely to behold as well).

Rather than make one large cake, I went with cupcakes and a miniature tiered cake. I think the reason why many people prefer individual desserts to slices off a larger article is not just the more elegant appearance, but that having an individual dessert all to yourself makes one feel a little more special; how better to define luxury on a plate?

And cupcakes are possibly the original individual dessert. It is this, along with their enchantingly nostalgic quality, which is the secret to their enduring appeal. Cupcakes are reminiscent of childhood, and often come replete with a child-friendly presentation - think swirls of frosting topped with sprinkles, jimmies, quins, hundreds-and-thousands and their ilk. This effortlessly stylish packaging makes the cupcake not just delightful to eat, but is what endears itself to everyone who enjoys baking - a fix that's as fun to make as it is to eat, what's not to love? I'm stating the obvious here, but what is less obvious is that cupcakes can also be very adult, a transformation effected simply by virtue of a change in presentation, giving them a treatment more typically associated with cakes of a grander scale. I think of this protean versatility as yet another explanation of the cupcake's evergreen allure.

I'm a big fan of both Peggy Porschen and Margaret Braun, and find in their work a source of great inspiration. Their books (Pretty Party Cakes, Romantic Cakes and Cakewalk) are probably the most well-thumbed and dye-stained in my collection of cake decorating manuals. Each has a very distinct style; Peggy Porschen's aesthetic is more contemporary and restrained, while Margaret Braun, a sugar artist who has redefined the art of cake decorating with her sense of historicism, has a proclivity for the gloriously flamboyant. Their styles may first seem disparate - in Ms Porschen's hands, even Bollywood kitsch (the inspiration behind some of her signature cakes) looks chic and and understated, while Ms Braun's use of beautifully busy Baroque flourishes (such as in her Baroque in Patent Leather design) wouldn't be out of place embellishing the vaulted mouldings of some 17th century architectural marvel - but both women create cakes that are always ideals of beauty (albeit by different definitions), always feminine and always glamorous.
The cupcakes and little tiered cake were decorated with swags and pearls piped in royal icing, and crowned with sugarpaste roses in assorted states of bloom from buds to half-open to full bloom - as everyone who's tried their hand at crafting these will tell you, it's not just about the character of each rose's appearance, but a numbers game; it's the utter quantity of them that makes the cake. To give them an antiqued patina, the rose petals (shaped from sugarpaste tinted in a variegated palette of pinks ranging from palest blush to dusky damask to Schiaparelli shocking) are accentuated by painting on a fuchsia lustre dust, with the petal edges gilded in gold, as are the vein-stamped leaves. I think it's the diminutive and delicate detail on these edible dollhouse miniatures that gives them a Marie Antoinette-sque quality.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

J, Are you as irritatingly perfect in person as your cakes always are? Everytime I visit, I feel so jealous my head feels like it's going to burst!

2:01 pm, August 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I forget to add, the green thing in me consoles itself by hoping they only look perfect but are only so-so in taste!

2:11 pm, August 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is absolutely stunning. Detailed and sophisticated. I really wouldn't bear to eat them.

2:39 pm, August 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey envious, i don't mean to add salt to injury, but if you've met Joycelyn or tasted her desserts, you will see that she's nice, lovely inside and outside, and her cakes taste as perfect as they look.


3:14 pm, August 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's so stunning J. And it's a wonderful contrast to the pale pastel butterfly cakes in your previous post. I love the variation. I am so looking forward to your classes! I'll be there.

3:36 pm, August 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The (cup)cakes are truly amazing. I love the details of each decoration.

If you bring out a cookbook with your recipes, I would definitely buy it. :)

3:42 pm, August 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These are just amazing... I wished I could work so well with cakes decorations as you do.. I'm such a failure with icing and fondant... :P

3:43 pm, August 20, 2007  
Blogger Anh said...

These are pure beauty! I cant take my eyes off the screen.

4:19 pm, August 20, 2007  
Blogger B@bYh|r0Sh| said...

Amazing!! I got to get my butt into your classes!!

4:58 pm, August 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's really very nice, marvellous… it's as about culinary "haute couture" … I don't speak English very well please excuse me…

5:01 pm, August 20, 2007  
Blogger Karen said...

these are really really lovely, i can't imagine how anyone would bear to eat them!

11:46 pm, August 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only thing better than having one of those cupcakes to myself would be to have the tiered cake to myself!

4:08 am, August 21, 2007  
Blogger Esra (Acemi Şef- Dikiş Keyfi) said...

I think you are doing amazin jobs! Beautiful!

5:38 am, August 21, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

jesus christ, this is soooo elegant!

6:16 am, August 21, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what must i do to score an opportunity to taste one of your divine desserts, to sup at your table? give an arm? a leg? done! just name a time and place. but seriously, your friends, they are a lucky bunch

3:25 pm, August 21, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have always been a silent reader of your blog but I can remain silent no more. The cakes are gorgeous! I love the gold accents and how you picked the various colours. I never would have thought that pastel blue would go so well with the colours of the roses and leaves. This is truly exotic!

9:03 pm, August 21, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for making our lives better. It makes me happy and inspired just to read your blog. See you at the cupcakes and also cookies class!

12:04 am, August 22, 2007  
Blogger duncan said...

STUNNING STUNNING STUNNING !!!! this is freaking awesome again ! i dunno what word to describe u ahah a... u r jus godness !! from the concept ... the presentation and the piping works are incredible !!! u really rawkssss! gotta learn from u !!!!!!!!!

so inspiring !!!!!!!!!

gotta start my baking sessions soon again lol

thanks for the often update i guess ur fans will be pleased =) hope to see more !

12:50 am, August 22, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm just shaking my head in awe. How do you do it?

4:51 am, August 22, 2007  
Blogger sally said...

Like Hazel above, I've been a silent fan of your blog for quite some time. I'm always amazed at your attention to detail and these cupcakes are no exception! Just gorgeous. I'm an avid baker and cake decorator myself, and I know what kind of painstaking effort you must have put into this. I'm relocating to Singapore next month and look forward to taking your classes! Do you have any advice on which hard-to-find ingredients or tools for baking I should buy here in the U.S. and take to Singapore? Please email me at Thanks!

6:53 am, August 22, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could this cake and its corresponding cupcakes be any more gorgeous? I think not. I noticed all the Marie Antoinette-esque details right from the start and give you much compliments for thinking all of that through.

My middle name happens to be Rose and I always loved roses on cakes! I even wrote a blog entry about rose cupcakes I saw at a faire . :)

3:57 am, August 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

your creations aren't meant for the tummy but for the art gallery!!! i cld never bear to down your creations, although i bet they taste good as well.

12:02 pm, August 23, 2007  
Blogger Big Boys Oven said...

they look so gorgeous and stunning!

11:52 am, August 24, 2007  
Blogger MattDior said...

it simply Stunning. Absolutely stunning!


7:28 pm, August 26, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi, i am so amazed by the decos n cakes and evrything else.. u teach classes? where can we get more info from? can you email it to me?, or post it on the blog. all of us will benefit from it

11:50 am, August 28, 2007  
Blogger Weylin said...

groan. speechless, j.

9:04 am, August 29, 2007  
Blogger The Culinary Chase said...

Wow! So perfect looking I don't think I could eat this but then again it is a cake! :) Cheers!

3:52 pm, August 29, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely stunning! Your food always looks like works of art.

6:14 am, August 31, 2007  
Blogger sooishi said...

It's so Marie-Antoinette!

6:17 pm, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Fast food kültürüne inat tabakta lezzetler... said...

supposedly it is very nice

10:14 pm, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Steffles said...

J, you've achieved another successful milestone - specky patience and designs. :)

6:35 pm, September 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay! I got into your 'Decorated Cookie' class. If my subsequent creations at home are half a nice as yours, I'll be happy.

1:29 am, September 02, 2007  
Blogger The Rainmaker said...


3:54 pm, September 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So very beautiful... like little jewel boxes.

7:37 pm, October 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Joycelyn,

I tink ur cakes r wonderful! I tried almost all ur recipes tat i learn frm ur classes & they r alwas wipe out b4 i can try myslf... U r great... ;p


2:32 am, November 30, 2007  

Post a Comment

<< Home