cakes, off-center cakes, cakes with sugar shards jutting from
them, a caramelized sugar teeter-totter balancing equal rounds
of fruit sorbet and crème fraîche. Cakes shaped
like the Guggenheim Museum. Avant-garde pastry. Dessert artist
Elizabeth Falkner takes these artistically inspired visions
dancing in her head and transforms them into culinary delights.
"It is not my tendency to make anything round,"
she says, and her cakes are anything but.
Topped with her signature explosion of sugar spirals, pulled
sugar ribbons and fruit tuiles, Elizabeth Falkners dessert
creations have become the talk of the pastry world.
She has been featured in numerous publications such as Fine
Cooking, Food & Wine, Pastry Art & Design, Gourmet
and W, and has been recognized with many awards such as "Rising
Star Chef" in 1995 from the San Francisco Chronicle and
"Pastry Chef of the Year" by San Francisco magazine.
Falkners talent for architecturally breathtaking cakes
and unusual blends of flavors has led to commissions ranging
from The California Museum of Art to celebrity special occasion
cakes such as the luscious "Je Ne Sais Quoise" cake
she created for actress Sharon Stones birthday.
Amazingly, this dessert artist draws her pastry inspiration
from sculpture, film and architecture. In fact, she prepares
blueprints and cardboard patterns for many of her creations.
Other desserts are born from a flash of inspiration and are
created on the spot.
She has even done "food performance art," such as
a chocolate ball dripping raspberry sauce onto a piece of
chocolate cake for an art gallery opening. "I love architecture
in dessert because the medium asks for it," she says.
"The chemical structures of chocolate and sugar are meant
to be modeled and molded."
Falkners desserts often defy gravity and convention
such as her cake that "leans" on its side to resemble
one of Richard Serras complex sculptures to one inspired
by the Los Angeles skyline.
Her creations are true works of art.
Not surprising considering Falkners background in fine
arts. This California native whose father is an artist, originally
planned on pursuing a career in film after obtaining her degree
from the San Francisco Art Institute. However, following pastry
stints at several of San Franciscos most renowned restaurants
including Masas, Elka and Rubicon, she decided to make
pastry her medium of choice. In 1997 she opened her own dessert
restaurant, the cinematically inspired "Citizen Cake"
("a cake for every citizen") to wide critical acclaim.
Her desserts are always challenging, mixing the expected with
the unexpected. Such as a crème brûlée
nestled between two glassine sugar tuiles.
Falkner takes California cuisine to the next level, layering
her desserts with blends of exotic spices and flavors such
as pepper, anise, passion fruit, pears, and kumquats. "My
cakes have several layers of information that I want to communicate
to people and I want to actually show it so people will say,
Ive got to have one of those!"
Everything about this passionate artist, from the post-modern
design of her patisserie to her dessert philosophy says innovative.
Even the way she names recipes shows her flair for creativity.
Her patisserie menu features imaginatively titled desserts
such as: "A Chocolate Work Orange," "Get Ready
Cake," and "Tropical Shag."
Falkners signature pièce de résistance
is her sugar art. She uses an ultrafine bakers sugar
to create her signature pulled sugar ribbons, roses, cages,
spirals and tuiles. Stalactites of sugar, teetering sugar
shards, sweet hard and soft meringues. Glistening, colorful--they
make you stop and look and gaze with awe before taking that
She likes to challenge how people think about dessert. According
to her, "food should lead you to dessert, so think, dessert
first! Desserts are really about pleasure, with or without
a meal. They should be visually seductive when looked at and
ethereal when bitten into."
Falkner currently is sharing her passion for pastry and other
dessert delectables on a national media tour where she is
teaching home bakers to work with heated sugar to create magnificent
adornments to add instant panache to any dessert.
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