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Artistry on a plate is a piece of cake

  
Via:  Buzz of the Orient  •  one month ago  •  3 comments

By:   Yang Feiyue

Artistry on a plate is a piece of cake
 

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Artistry on a plate is a piece of cake

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Baker Wang Fang has made cakes depicting 1,800 destinations, including Lingyin Temple from Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Baker's ability to depict real-life scenes is a tasty treat, Yang Feiyue reports.

One might have a difficult time cutting into one of Wang Fang's cakes, as they are practically works of art, almost too good to be spoiled. From natural wonders to cultural heritage, the baker from Taizhou in Zhejiang province has re-created 1,800 destinations from China and around the world out of butter and flour. They are miniature presentations of scenery full of detail.

One of her most popular works is of the "world's loneliest house" in Iceland. Wang, in her 30s, did a fair job of re-creating the scenery at the destination, a bright green island surrounded by the sea, on which a tiny house with white walls and a dark roof sits.

"Everything is made from scratch," says Wang, who is known by her customers as Fanghao, and who has named her bakery Fangland Cake.

"The natural texture of rocks is achieved with chocolate, and the green color is made with matcha powder, while the ocean is pulled off by buttercream, with waves made from whipped cream," she explains.

Other classic creations include West Lake in Zhejiang's provincial capital Hangzhou, which highlights its pagodas and islands, and Yueya (Crescent Moon) Spring, the crescent-shaped lake surrounded by the Gobi Desert in Dunhuang, Gansu province.

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Baker Wang Fang has made cakes depicting 1,800 destinations, including a Pacific island. [Photo provided to China Daily]

"Most of our customers are between 20 and 30 years old. They love life and have a strong sense of ceremony," Wang says. "The cake itself may be secondary; what matters to them is its expression of emotion. Behind this, there may be a memory they cherish, or perhaps a place they desire to visit in the future. The quality of ingredients also matters to them."

She says that many of her customers generally regard traditional fondant cake as too sweet and heavy, so she has made a point of using soft chiffon cake layers and light whipped cream to make her cakes not just visually appealing, but also enjoyable to eat.

Micro-landscape cakes break away from the traditional round or square cake shape. A base is trimmed into a rough shape, and drizzled with chocolate ganache to give it initial form. Crumbled cookies are then used to create grass or snow, while green Sprite jelly is often used to fashion rivers, lakes and seas. Fine textures are well-crafted, and delicate fondant accessories are added layer by layer.

Wang got involved in the art as a result of special requests from colleagues at Alibaba, who constituted most of her clientele at the start of her baking career. She had been working at the Chinese technology company as a visual designer for four years. "I loved baking cakes in my spare time, and would share them with my colleagues, who were generous with their compliments," Wang recalls.

This encouragement kept her honing her skills and led to a sideline making cakes for colleagues. "It felt great whenever I delivered a cake to them," Wang says.

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Baker Wang Fang has made cakes depicting 1,800 destinations, including Sayram Lake from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. [Photo provided to China Daily]

She says she enjoyed the instant feedback from customers and the satisfaction of pulling off a new design. "Sometimes, when customers had specific ideas and requests that I hadn't tried before, I got excited and was motivated to bring their vision to life," Wang adds.

As her experience grew, Wang discovered that baking was her true calling and quit her job in 2018. "I felt that I was just a cog in a big machine, and didn't play a big enough role in the outcome of a project," she explains.

Wang followed professional pastry chefs to learn the basics of shaping, piping, coloring, and fondant work before opening her dessert studio in Hangzhou.

Not content with traditional buttercream cakes, she began to make sculptural cakes that were shaped like cheongsam (traditional Chinese dress), clouds, wine barrels and skewers.

She was inspired to create micro-landscape cakes in 2022 when a former colleague sent her a photo of an island and asked if she could fashion it out of cake. After some trial and error, Wang succeeded and then posted photos on the social media platform Xiaohongshu, earning herself more than 100,000 followers overnight. "I was so excited that I couldn't fall asleep," she says, adding that she then decided to make more cakes that looked like real-life destinations.

Wang began to pick up different skill sets. She had to explore everything on her own, as she failed to find anyone who was making micro-landscape cakes in China, she says.

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Baker Wang Fang has made cakes depicting 1,800 destinations, including the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. [Photo provided to China Daily]

For example, she considers the completion of a cake featuring rushing water cascading down Niagara Falls and crashing against white ships downstream a technical breakthrough. "First, both the upper and lower flows of water are created with jelly, ensuring that the amount of liquid does not collapse the cake structure but still depicts the depth of the river," Wang explains. "Then, to capture the dynamic movement of the water, multiple layers of white buttercream are used, playing with light and shadow to create a sense of three-dimensionality."

Customers have since beaten a path to her business, which has expanded to have eight bakers and three customer service workers. "Most of my cake designers don't have a background in baking. Instead, they come from a variety of fields, including fashion design, environmental art, and fine arts, and only one has prior baking experience," Wang says. "What's crucial for me is they have a strong artistic foundation and a keen sense of aesthetics."

Her bakery receives about 20 orders a day. Prices range from 650 yuan ($90) to 4,000 yuan, depending on size and complexity. "For the complex ones, we need four people working together, some doing the accessories while others are in charge of the foundations, like mountains and land," Wang says.

Usually, a session is held for customers to express their ideas and for Wang to tell them what they can expect. After this, she does research to find more information on the destination.

"Sometimes, customers will only give us a photo showing parts of a place, so we need to find other angles to capture the entire scene, because most of us haven't been there," Wang says. "We also need to consider the customer's requests. For example, the photo might have been taken in the summer, but they may want a spring scene, with the appropriate colors and seasonal ambience."

One of Wang's most unforgettable experiences was re-creating an urban project for a 90-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease last year.

"She worked on the city renovation project decades ago. Her grandson found us and hoped to use the cake to jog her memory," Wang says, adding that she was touched that the woman had cried after recognizing the scene re-created in cake.

Previous design work experience has also lent Wang skills that can be applied to her customers.

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A scene depicted in cake by Wang from the role-playing game, Genshin Impact. [Photo provided to China Daily]

"I offer them options when they only have a general idea of what they want, and explain the differences between the various choices," she says.

She currently has more than 600,000 followers on social media.

Liang Chen joined Wang's team in 2020. He had no prior experience but has since evolved into a professional micro-landscape baker.

"I used to sell handicrafts, but had been looking for novel things to try," says the 31-year-old, adding that Wang's cakes satisfied that quest for new experiences.

"Now we have increasing numbers of customers, who have posed an assortment of ideas to challenge us, and I feel a sense of achievement when we deliver what they've asked for," Liang says, adding that Wang has held nothing back when it comes to sharing her knowledge, and has always taken the initiative to learn new things.

Wang recently traveled to Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, to take a three-day course on creating cake flavors. "I'd like to add a wider range of flavors to my cakes," she says.

She's also planning to introduce smaller cakes that are cheaper and designed for daily consumption. "It would be a good way of allowing more people to enjoy the charm of our micro-landscape cakes," she says.

Now that business is on the right track, Wang feels that she is making money doing something she loves. "The key lies in following the heart, choosing to do what you love and enjoying the happiness that ensues," she says.

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Wang (third from left) explains the techniques involved in elaborate cake making to her students. [Photo provided to China Daily]


Red Box Rules

RED BOX RULES:  AN IMPORTANT REMINDER

From time-to-time, I should remind all members of NT, etc., that when posting photos, artwork, etc., it's important, when posting, that you own, and/or legally represent the licensing, copyright, etc., of what you post, and TO PROTECT YOUR WORK, TO INCLUDE YOUR COPYRIGHT SYMBOL/INFORMATION; and/or, WHEN POSTING COPYRIGHTED PROPERTY BELONGING TO PARTIES OTHER THAN YOURSELF, TO …

• BE SURE YOU HAVE PERMISSION TO POST, TRANSMIT, etc, SUCH PROPERTY, and,

• IF/WHEN SUCH PERMISSION HAS BEEN GRANTED, TO PROPERLY AND CLEARLY ATTRIBUTE THE COPYRIGHTS TO THEIR RIGHTFUL OWNER(S).

VERY IMPORTANT … IN THE FUTURE, I WILL REMEMBER TO POST THIS CAVEAT REGULARLY.

Thanks, A. MAC


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Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient    one month ago

Cakes that are creative works of art.  They look good enough to eat. do they not?

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
2  seeder  Buzz of the Orient    one month ago

LOL.  Two days gone by and even if it be a "sweet subject', one easy, even desirable to digest, it remains wtihout a vote up, without a comment, swept quickly off the Front (Home) Page.  I'm giving up on posting articles - my time is wasted here and I'm going to spend a lot more of my time watching movies. a much more rewarding passtime. 

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
3  seeder  Buzz of the Orient    one month ago

Temporarily rescued to the Front (Home) Page by the Group Administrator - a man with good taste. 

 
 

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