In the October 2013 issue of Cake Central Magazine, we asked our designers to create cakes based on the timeless tales of the Brothers Grimm and the iconic artistry of Arthur Rackham. Karolina Gergelova’s (Karolina-Cake-Designer) 3-D Hansel and Gretel cake transported us into the fantastical world of the classic fairy tale and made us curious about her design process.
We asked Karolina to give us the scoop about recreating this classic scene in cake. Here’s what she had to say:
Cake Central: What elements of the moodboard/inspiration photos attracted your attention?
Karolina Gergelova: What hit me first was the classical style of Arthur Rackham’s drawings. I’ve always loved the work of old masters in oil paintings, old fairy tales or architecture— if I see it’s intricate, I am intrigued and get inspired by it. Looking more into this artist’s work, I learned that not only did he illustrate an amazing amount of English children’s storybooks, but some of his monotone drawings were compared to Japanese “Meiji” woodblock prints. So I instantly fell in love with the difficulty level of it, taking it as a challenge to pay tribute to the artist who is still very popular today.
CC: Where did your ideas come from (if not from the moodboard)?
KG: Since I am currently a very passionate gingerbread/cookie decorator, there was no doubt I would try to recreate the whole illustration three-dimensionally, specifically the house, which would be my first gingerbread house ever. I also printed a few more of Rackham’s illustrations from the internet, and studied his style in each of them. For example, as I could not see the door in the moodboard, I found a drawing of another hut, and incorporated that into my design.
CC: What was your design process like? How did you create your cake concept?
KG: First, knowing that this was going to be a display cake, I carved the house out of polystyrene and added figurines, constantly comparing the results with the original picture. Then I tried to visualize what a single-tiered cake would look like in the magazine. Most of the time I make single-tiered cakes, and I wanted to represent myself realistically in Cake Central Magazine. I love three- and four-tiered cakes, but most of my regular customers are parents of children living in a modest English countryside, so I do smaller versions of big, luxurious cakes for them. After creating the one-tier platform, I decided to add another tier, which would enable me to show a bit more of the flexibility I have.
CC: It is clear from your sketch that you have an artistic background. How does your background influence your sketches/cakes?
KG: My dad is a professional photographer and ever since I can remember, he was a perfectionist. The city I come from (Kosice in east Slovakia) just overflows with art and diversity. I’ve always loved traditional [Slovakian-style] baking, but after I moved to the UK, I had lots to learn about the “Western” style. I love nature, and life in beautiful green Devon is absolutely reflected in everything I do. Recently, I’ve started experimenting at combining the best of the Western style and my traditional style, which has proved to be massively successful.
CC: How did you begin making a cake from your sketch? What were your first steps?
KG: To be honest, I started my sketch only after I finished the first tier. I knew I was turning Rackham’s illustration literally and deliberately into cake, so his illustration was “the sketch.” The moment I finished the house scene, I knew it would require a bit more, so I grabbed a pen and put it all down on a piece of paper. Also, even though I used to do oil paintings and portraits, my cake sketches are usually very rough. Most of the designing is done in my mind. In fact, a few of my cakes were not even “planned” at all— I just let them reveal themselves to me along the way.
CC: Were there any complications in making your cake?
KG: I had to leave the sitting bench out (there wasn’t enough room for it), and towards the end, I replaced the ferns I had in my mind with leaves, which are my signature. Also, I wanted to open part of the roof and create an indoor scene in the house, but there was no time. And I realized it might have been too much.
CC: Did you use any special techniques on this cake?
KG: I used a combination of all the techniques I have learned in my short, four-year career. From modeling, sculpting, hand-painting and sponge-painting, to delicate piping— and even the use of wires, which I tend to avoid. I made an exemption because I knew the trees would frame the whole design beautifully, and I am glad I did. Modeling chocolate on wire opened new possibilities for me.
CC: Do you have any final thoughts on the finished cake?
KG: I am so pleased with the final result. The natural greens and browns make it pleasant to look at. The amazing photographer who took the pictures said “This cake really tells the story.” I am happy to say I succeeded to bring this story to life.