Let Them Eat (Mondrian) Cake

BeautifulNow May 22, 2013

modern art desserts3Food and Art, two of our passions, intersect in a new crop of gorgeous “cookbooks.”

Piet Mondrian’s thick black lines are replaced with chocolate ganache. His crisp white squares are now moist, spongy vanilla cake. The dashes of colors are dyed blue, yellow, and red velvet cake.

Modern Art Desserts: Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Confections, and Frozen Treats Based on Iconic Works of Art, by Caitlin Freeman, (Ten Speed Press, 2013), is filled with 27 recipes for sweets based on artworks on exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It provides step-by-step recipes for crafting culinary works of art.

This is hardly a book for a “hobby baker.” It isn’t for the crock pot crowd either. The confections in this book are works of art reimagined by another sort of artist, renowned pastry chef, Caitlin Freeman, who, along with her baking partners Leah Rosenberg and Tess Wilson, run the Blue Bottle Cafe within the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Left: “Rouen Cathedral Set V,” by Roy Lichtenstein (1969); Right: “Lichtenstein Cake,” from Modern Art Desserts

Roy Lichtenstein’s dots are made out of crisp, sugar icing instead of acrylic, as they define the icing layer atop “Lichtenstein Cake.” While some of the desserts in the cookbook are fairly literal replicas, Freeman’s reinterpretations are genius.

Left: “Untitled #415” by Cindy Sherman (2004); Right: “Ice Cream Float” from “Modern Art Desserts”

“Warhol Gelée” is a multi-layered jiggly dessert that channels Warhol’s iconic screen printing process and bright color palette. Cindy Sherman’s sense of fun is reimagined in “Ice Cream Float” as a fizzy ice cream float, sprinkled with edible glitter.

Top: Fuller Hot Chocolate, from “Modern Art Desserts”; Bottom: Buckminster Fuller, “Proposed Tetrahedral City” (1965)

The “Fuller Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows and Sea Salt” was influenced by Buckminster Fuller’s “Proposed Tetrahedral City“ (1965), in which Fuller imagined a great pyramid floating on San Francisco Bay, designed to house one million residents. Freeman topped a mug of hot molten chocolate with a pyramid-shaped marshmallow and drank deep. The Blue Bottle Team needed to really feel the Gestalt of this dessert, so they set out on a boat to float on the Bay. They scooped up seawater as they drifted, and, once ashore, evaporated it to produce the Sea Salt they use to build this delicacy.

The Modern Art Cookbook, by Mary Ann Caws, (Reaktion Books, 2013), is another modern art-inspired cookbook. The book is a love letter to cooking and art. Caws is an art historian and foodie. Her new book is a collage of artwork, diaries, novels, letters, and poems, exploring artists’ connections to food. Food is a fairly common subject of painting and sculpture, from Warhol’s “Tomato Soup Can” to Oldenburg’s “Two Cheeseburgers with Everything” and “Pastry Case,” from “Le Déjeuner sur L’Herbe,” to Gaugin’s “The Ham.” But Caws considers multiple sides of the food equation, as she examines how artists and writers relate to food, in their creative, gustatory, and culinary pursuits. The book is dotted with artists’ recipes including Ezra Pound’s poetic eggs, Cezanne’s baked tomatoes, and Monet’s madeleines. Imagine them all cooking in between sprints of masterpiece creation.

Graffiti Cookbook: A Guide to Techniques and Materials by Björn Almqvist, Torkel Sjöstrand, and Tobias Barenthin Lindblad, has a different art/food connection. It considers a chef’s approach in thinking about making art. Graffiti has a wide range of styles, in a spectrum from simple and iconic Harings to elaborate Seaks. The Cookbook explores and explains the styles and the techniques behind them.  Swet, Jurne, Mad C, Egs and Chob are some of the featured artists in the book. With “recipes,” tricks of the trade, and loads of photographs, the “Graffiti Cookbook” is an Art Cookbook.

Art as cookbook? Cookbook as art? Yes, please.

Check out Art, Science, and Food Waltz, our post highlighting Modernist Cuisine, for another art/cookbook fusion.

MODERN ART DESSERTS from Clay McLachlan on Vimeo.

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