Cake architect

Cake architect

Can an architect stop thinking like an architect even if he/she does not practice the profession? I guess not. Once the virus of design begins to circulate in the blood, there is never a cure. Whatever you do, that virus comes into play at some point; it affects your work, the design process will not let you go. Being originally an architect, I feel this quite often, even in my writings, I have to have a structure in mind before starting to type or just start drafting thoughts on paper. I sometimes think some chefs were meant to be architects, but with a twist of fate, they ended up in the kitchen. Seldom, they are really architects. Ukranian pastry chef Dinara Kasko is. A rare example. Maybe that is why she had first hit the architecture circles as the breaking news, but not the gastronomy world.

I discovered Kasko for the first time in 2016 on the architecture website ArchDaily. Topics from the food world are not likely to be included in architectural platforms, except from a few restaurant designs. However, that time, the entire article was devoted to the work of Kasko as an architect turned into a pastry chef. To be honest, the pictures of her cakes looked more like models of a structure designed, maybe a roof structure modeling, or contours of the piece of land where the building is going to be situated. They did not have any resemblance to traditional cakes, they were edgy in every sense, featuring straight lines, sharp angles and geometric forms opposing to the round classic ones. Probably, because it was not possible to understand that they were actually cakes, one picture showed her hand squeezing an almost neon bright red icing as if jointing infill in between cut stone paving. Even that picture did not persuade me that those ground breaking cakes were edible until a week ago when I actually ate one!

When the cake is cut, the cross-section displays a serious structural design. At this point, I prefer to use an architectural term saying a cross-section but not a slice of cake. The materials (or ingredients) are constructed in thin layers with fillings of flavors and textures, arranged with the dexterity of a skilled mason. It was clear that every detail was carefully thought through and no point was left to chance or improvisation. It was not possible not to admire the design refinement. Kasko’s cakes give the fear that they are more about the form, and the flavors can be a bit artificial, on the contrary, the flavors are natural. In contrast with their sharp forms giving a sense of solid structure, they are as light as a feather, very light and airy, more like a mousse than a cake. For example, the cloud cake appears like a mass of cotton balls, completely white, with no color at all. Here, the absence of color emphasizes the nebula-like feeling. The cake itself is light as a cloud, as its form implies, more like a foamy cream dessert. The first cloud-like impression created by the form is completed in the taste; the flavors clinch the lightness the form implies, captured by refreshing fruits, a tart acidity contrasting the whipped cream.

When I was back in architecture school in the ’70s, there was always this endless debate in the design studio on whether form follows function or the other way round. I usually have this dilemma in the gastronomy world, translated as taste versus visuality. Whether the taste or the satisfaction level, including the quantity one gets from a chef’s plate, is up to the highly intricate visually artistic creations. The general form follows function equation is usually lost in that sense, often the wow factor remains only in regard with the visuals. Of course, visuality is indispensable for a special product such as a cake. Decoration in cakes has been an important dimension throughout history. In fact, cakes decorated with sugar flowers were displayed like sculptures as a sign of prestige on royal tables. When we look at the works of Kasko, we see a completely modern approach that is free from traditional icings and cake decorations, but still the visuality is striking, getting its strength from the plain simplicity.

These simple yet striking forms are hard to achieve when one thinks in terms of classical cake-making techniques, one had to have another set of thinking method. Apparently, in Kasko’s case, it proved to be an architectural design approach. The cake was taken as a three-dimensional design problem. At that point, she first designs the form as if designing a structure, and then drafts the drawing, and then from that draft she prints silicone cake molds on a 3D printer. Her inspirations can be from anywhere. Sometimes it is a basket of cherries she saw in the local market, which is not unusual of course -- it is totally usual for a chef to get inspiration from food items and from market places. But sometimes, the artist in the architect strikes back. For the ruby chocolate cake, she was inspired by the works of artist Matt Shlian, famous for his sculptural paperwork, and was totally up to the artistic level of the original paperwork of Shlian. That particular cake made with the sculptural algorithmic modeling technique was again featured in ArchDaily in 2017. As I said before, once the design bug bites you, there is no cure. You cannot take out the architect out of this girl!

NB: Dinara Kasko’s designer cakes are now available in Istanbul under the Flosophia brand, where she plans to create special cakes for Istanbul with locally inspired tastes and forms.
Instagram: @flosophia_pastry