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5 Minutes with Sarah Hardy

Chef Tips
portrait of sarah hardy

With the popularity of illusion cakes on the rise; we caught up with Cake Artist, and pioneer of the hyper realistic cake, Sarah Hardy to find out all about her unique show stopping creations.

Hi Sarah, thank you for chatting to us about your amazing bakes. You come from an art school background, how did you make the transition from traditional art to cake art?

I had been working across Europe & America doing wax-work figures for museums and was moving into TV & film too, I loved the work and the travel and then... I got pregnant. Everything had to change, I took the decision to stay at home and start afresh. After drawing a lot of dead insects I started sculpting again as a way of keeping myself sane, but in the kitchen instead of the studio. The children were the first to get great cakes, and later it developed into a business.

Your creations are so unique and detailed, what inspires you?

I’d say the biggest inspiration is the natural world. I grew up in the countryside with rivers and fields as my playground. I can’t help but pay my respects to that world. I also love horror, antiques and history so I guess those subjects come out in my work too.

You have been commissioned to create so many weird and wonderful creations, have there been any that stand out as your favourite?

I really enjoyed being given the theme of “Caribbean” and a Georgian library to install an edible exhibition in. I made a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ from biscuit & cake including shells, sea urchins & starfish that were displayed like a museum collection. It was probably the beginning of The Edible Museum.

Edible shells made out of cake

There has definitely been an increase in interest for hyper realistic and unusual cakes in recent months, why do you think illusion cakes and confectionary are becoming so popular?

I think illusions are a timeless source of curiosity for us. We have been enjoying optical illusions since at least the 5th C BC.  But it is the edible element that is new. The economic downturn had the positive impact of creating a renewed interest in baking as a fun, affordable and soulful past time. As we play with our food the illusion has crept in there too.

If you could offer one piece of advice to someone worried about attempting an illusion cake themselves what would it be?

Research, research, research. Get great reference images and really look at how a thing is shaped, its textures and details before you even bake a cake.

A frog made out of cake sitting in the grass

We imagine it takes many tools and ingredients to make your creations, if we were to rummage through your baking cupboards what would we find?

Actually I use very few tools for cakes. When I teach I tend to emphasise using your hands to sculpt and always suggest you buy just a bone tool & a vein tool. As for ingredients its best quality eggs, butter etc. (it's GOT to taste great too) plus flower paste, fondant and a set of proper food colours. The chocolate work is a whole different story!

With the rise of illusion cakes and success of your mail order confectionary business, The Edible Museum, what exciting things have you got coming up in the next few months?

Sarah Hardy decorating a cake in the shape of a pheasant

I am looking forward to my first face-to-face selling experience. I will be at November 2017’s Presents Galore, which raises money for McMillan cancer care. Its nerve wracking actually as I haven’t met customers face to face before, so if you are popping by be nice! I’m also looking forward to the next hyperreal cake - a pair of life size pheasants complete with all the individual feathers for a wedding in a couple of weeks. 

You can find out more about Sarah on her website; or go to her shop, The Edible Museum, to try one of the amazing creations for yourself.

If you enjoyed this interview, we think you'll enjoy our 5 minutes with Peter Sidwell.