Sketch to Cake: Mariela Ivanova’s Origami Paper Boat Inspired Wedding Cake

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Mariela Ivanova

from Varna, Bulgaria created a contemporary, and innovative wedding cake for the cover of the origami cake issue of Cake Central Magazine Volume 8 Issue 2 . Mariela’s whimsical, colorful wedding cake was inspired by the ancient art of origami to represent the the blissful journey of marriage.




I really loved this theme, it’s so unusual and artistic. I particularly liked the bold combination of colors and the contrast between the sharp edges of the origami boat and the soft curves of the ocean.

Although I was very excited to work on this project, I realized it was a very difficult and challenging task. I pictured a cake with a modern, clean, almost architectural design but also wanted to give it a deep philosophical meaning, considering it was supposed to be a wedding cake. The composition and proportions of the tiers were easy to figure out – I needed sharp edges, so definitely rectangular tiers and also a couple of smaller tiers between them to add dynamics. I had an overall vision in my head but the details were kind of vague and I spent a lot of time trying to figure them out. The bottom tier was the base of the cake and it had to represent the ocean as a symbol of the infinite, beautiful, mysterious, salty married life. I wanted it to be more stylized rather than making actual waves. The third tier had to be the most important one, the one that tells a story. I wanted to give it a 3D effect, to look like an art installation or more like a paper diorama. I definitely wanted to include the origami boat as the main accent – to symbolize the wonderful journey of marriage. Also, since origami is Japanese art I thought of adding a koi fish couple as they are a very positive symbol of strength, longevity and good fortune. However, I didn’t want them to overshadow the boat so they had to be very stylized and almost transparent. For the two smaller tiers I tried to think of something else connected to the ocean and I came upon those Japanese glass fishing floats that are incredibly beautiful. First I thought of using gelatin bubbles and make them look like glass balls wrapped with fishing nets but it didn’t feel quite right. I needed a rougher texture to balance the smoothness of the third tier. So I kept the fishing net and tried to make the texture look like sea foam. Finally, I needed some flowers to break the symmetry, add romance and make it look more like a wedding cake.

I have to say that the sketch and the cake itself kind of evolved together. At first, the sketch was just a composition of tiers, in order to figure out sizes and proportions. The details came later, along with me trying out different techniques with fondant and wafer paper. That’s actually my usual way of working, I like to improvise.

I knew I wanted to use a lot of wafer paper on this cake but I wasn’t sure how to use it. So I spent about a week trying different techniques with wafer paper and nothing seemed to work the way I wanted and it was quite frustrating, I have to admit. It turns out you can’t make actual origami items out of wafer paper as it breaks very easily. I had also tried so many different ways of recreating the ocean and none of them was good enough until I noticed those wavy lines and bubbles in the sky from the inspiration photo and thought this was my perfect bottom tier. I was having trouble coming up with the right flowers too as they had to be unusual and artistic and of course of wafer paper. I had this idea to make them look like some kind of fantasy seaweed and I really liked how they turned out. The third tier was the easiest, I had a very clear vision of the details.

The most interesting technique I used was probably the making of the flowers. They are actually a kind of fantasy peonies. I cut the petals out of wafer paper, put them on a silicone peony veiner and coat them with water. I made small holes with a sharp tool and let the petals dry up without removing them from the veiner. Then I airbrushed them with a sheen orange food paint and assembled them together. They turned out really vibrant and unique. Another favorite part is the 3D representation of the ocean with the origami boat in the middle of it. At first, I considered making the entire tier hollow and the boat hanging in the air but then the thought of an empty hole in a wedding cake didn’t seem quite right. So I decided to make a few frames, each 1 cm thick, and glue the gradually narrowing and deepening in color wafer paper waves on each of them.

Working with wafer paper was the most challenging part. I didn’t know what I could do with it so I couldn’t design the details until I actually made them. So almost the whole time I didn’t know what I was doing and was worried I wouldn’t be able to come up with a good enough cake.

I didn’t really have an original plan except for the composition, geometry and overall style of the cake. Everything else kept changing during the whole process. Initially, I wanted to make more origami pieces and to make the cake look more like a modern sculpture or an art installation but I couldn’t achieve good enough results with wafer paper.

At first, I wasn’t completely pleased with the final results because I kept focusing on the things I couldn’t do rather than on what I had succeeded to do. But the more I looked at the finished cake, the more I like it. The colors and geometry are well balanced, it has that modern, artistic look I was going for, combined with ancient Asian symbols. It was a very exciting and stimulating adventure, I really felt like an artist and I’m thankful for the opportunity.

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