The Cake Artist

By Alex Dixon

Photo courtesy of Catering Works

When Maria Giacona brought a cake—made to resemble a vase—to the creator of the piece that inspired it, the designer thought it was an imitation.

Giacona recalls the designer seemed irritated that someone tried to copy her work, but once she realized the vase was a cake, it astounded her. Giacona, now a cake artist at Catering Works, has been baking and designing edible works of art for more than a decade. She graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and then ran her own business in Auburn, New York, before coming to Raleigh.

From video game controllers to bottles of Patrón, nothing is off limits for Giacona to re-create in cake form. She grew up taking every art class she could, and her first job—at age 15—was in a bakery. Like egg combines with flour to make batter, Giacona eventually blended her two passions into a profession she loves, and working at the catering and event-planning company is ideal.

“Cake artist is the best title I’ve ever had because that’s really what the job is,” Giacona says. “I still use all the tools and skills I learned in my art classes, but instead of sculpting or painting, I use those skills on cakes.”

As summer and another wedding season kicks off, Giacona is sure to be busy creating anything that’s light on the palate, including white cakes and cakes with fruit fillings, such as raspberry. Although the season typically brings lighter colors like ivories and pastels that imitate flowers, she also hopes to see more daring and spontaneous couples this year— couples who are willing to take risks with their cakes. Giacona expects that naked cakes will remain popular, but she likes to put her own spin on the trend and create “half-naked cakes,” frosting one tier and leaving the others without frosting or with dripping frosting.

Aside from filling the typical requests, Giacona also loves custom orders, working with her clients to execute their vision perfectly. “People have ideas of what they want, and they’re always throwing curveballs at you,” she says. “I’ve been doing this for 15 years and, even though I’m pretty experienced, there are always going to be new techniques or something crazy you’ve never done before.”

Each cake is a masterpiece, such as the one she made as a recreation of Monet’s famous Water Lilies painting. “It’s very rewarding when you have something awesome to present to your client,” she says. “That’s why I do it—to see that reaction on people’s faces. That’s the best thing for me; I love hearing positive feedback and I love making someone’s day.”

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