Charles Hecht
Paul Klee Edible Mosaic Cake

Let’s face it, the reason we don’t decorate cakes at home is because it’s just too hard. It’s horribly messy dealing with all that gooey, oozing icing and trying to actually draw something with a bulging, sticky icing bag that won’t come out looking like one of those squishy Claes Oldenburg cake-sculptures is an exercise in utter frustration.

Enter gum paste, the foolproof solution to decorating a special-occasion cake. Gum paste is a sugary dough that you can buy at any good cake supply store (i.e. New York Cake and Baking Distributors 56 W. 26th Street, New York, NY 10011 or to order by phone: 212-675-2253). The paste is naturally white, but you can mix up small amounts of different colors using ordinary food coloring and then you’ve got a basic Play-Do situation. If you are really good with your hands, you can make tiny sculptural objects or figurines out of the stuff. Or you can make flowers by forming oval petals and draping them over the back of a spoon until they harden into curves, which you can then stick onto the iced cake. The icing will act like glue.

You’ll need:
gum paste
food coloring
a knife and rolling pin (or the side of a clean wine bottle for rolling)
an iced cake

One of my favorite and easiest cake decorating design ideas is to make small squares of several different shades of one color. Mix small bunches and add one extra drop of food coloring to each until you have about ten different hues and then roll them out and cut squares with a knife. When you lay the squares side by side around the edges or sides of the cake, allowing different shades to lie next to each other, they create a mosaic effect like a Paul Klee painting. Tint the color of the base icing first, so you won’t have to fill every inch. Use pale blues, purples and greens for a beautiful effect.

Paul Klee: Swiss Expressionist painter (1879-1940). Member of Der Blaue Reiter an Expressionist group of the early 20th century who taught at the Bauhaus along with Wasili Kandinsky and explored themes of metaphysics, transcendentalism and the primitive. He is hard to classify, having connections with both surrealism and cubism, and he used symbols and signs in an attempt to access the "reality that is behind visible things." He is one of those artists who were termed "degenerate" by the Nazis, a label that has, for obvious reasons, turned out to be something of a compliment.

Claes Oldenburg: Swedish-born American Pop artist (b. 1929). He is most famous for giant "soft" sculptures, made from cloth or vinyl, representing various foods, appliances and ordinary objects, such as burgers, slices of pie and a fan. Since the 1970s, he has collaborated with his wife and fellow artist, Coosje Van Bruggen, on large-scale architectural works.
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