Celebrate With Customized Cakes
By Lee Hyo-won
No celebration is complete without a sumptuous, mouthwatering cake. Introduced here not too long ago, the sweet dessert has long become an indispensable centerpiece for birthdays, weddings and other festivities.
Rachel Lee, 22, does not go to the nearby bakery when heading to a party. Instead, she orders her own customized design at specialty stores.
``I've always been interested in cooking, and became more informed about pastry art through (the TV drama) ``My Name is Kim Sam-soon.'' I took private home-baking courses at Piano Cake Class this summer and got to see a customized cake for a kindergarten birthday party, decorated with personalized cookies for each child. It was so adorable. I now order such customized cakes as birthday gifts,'' she said.
``It's the process itself that is so fun and special because you can choose everything yourself. You put a lot of thought into it, because you think about their (the person receiving the cake) taste. I also got to know them better by conducting a mini interview to find out about their favorite things,'' she said.
Kiss conventional cakes goodbye, and celebrate special occasions with your own unique creation, topped with handmade cookies, fresh flowers or extravagant sugar craft decorations tailored to meet your fancy.
Floral Delights: Flower and Bread
A fresh bouquet of flowers and a fancy cake almost always accompany celebrations. Why not combine them? At Flower and Bread, your favorite dessert _ tiramisu, chocolate ganache, blueberry cheesecake, chiffon and sweet potato cake _ are topped with real flowers.
Professional florist and pastry chef Lee Seung-nam offers a tasteful marriage of the two. Lee is in fact the first in Korea to start the simple yet innovative idea. The concept of floral cakes has only recently become popular in the United States for weddings, according to Lee.
``My husband was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the 1980s, and we were staying with a host family. My hostess was an award-winning baker, and I learned baking from her. I baked a wedding cake for a friend, but found that the decoration was too plain. I was already a florist at the time, and I thought, why not add fresh flowers?'' said Lee, who went on to study at the famed Cordon Bleue for a patisserie certificate.
``Floral cakes are sensual delights -- they're pleasing to the eye, palate and nose. Also, unlike icing, flowers are all natural. You simply have to remove them. Or, you can eat them if they're edible, like violets, roses and chrysanthemum, which are not only pretty but also rich in vitamins. They taste slightly sour but have a tinge of sweetness,'' she explained.
You can order your own cake topped with fresh flowers by calling the day before. More elaborate designs like three-tier cakes should be ordered at least two to three days in advance. Not only can you choose the flavor of the cake, but also think about flower meanings to add that personal touch.
Cakes cost 40,000 won and up. Lee also holds private five-week baking courses as well as ten-week flower arrangement classes. Flower and Bread is located in Apgujeong-dong. Call (02) 516-3971.
Cookies Galore: Piano Cake Class
Wondering how to make your parents' golden anniversary ultra special? Cookies and cakes converge to create customized cakes. Simply bring a photo of your parents, and pastry chef Lee Chung-kyung will bake cookies shaped like your mother and father, even sporting the same hairstyle and clothing.
``Anything is possible here. You can write messages on cookies, or create an entire town. Each cake has a different story, and it's really enjoyable for me to think of designs for each piece,'' she said. After studying in the United States and Japan, Lee has been creating customized cakes for the past 11 years.
``I teach baking and take orders. At first there were more people wanting to take classes than those ordering cakes, but these days I'm busy with more orders. Everyone wants something that's one of a kind, especially for special occasions,'' she said.
You can also sign up for private baking lessons in small groups of four to five people. Beginner, intermediate and advanced courses are available. During the first session of the six-week course for beginners, for example, you make your own white chocolate cake and cereal bowl cookies.
Make your order at least four days in advance. Cakes cost 65,000 won and up. Call Piano Cake Class at (02) 515-1945 or visit Lee's mini homepage www.cyworld.com/pianocakeclass. The studio is located in Cheongdam-dong.
Art of Baking: Sugar Craft
We call things that are easy ``a piece of cake.'' But these sugar craft pieces are quite the opposite. Pastry expert Lee Yang-ji creates artful centerpieces using ``flower dough,'' which is comprised mostly of sugar, to create dainty flowers, paper-thin lace sheets and miniature bride and grooms. The sugar coating is made of fondant, another sugar-based dough.
Sugar craft is a British specialty. ``In England, three-tier sugar craft cakes are traditional for weddings. The first tier is eaten at the wedding, the second a year later for the first anniversary and the third is reserved for celebrating the birth of your first child,'' Lee explained.
``The cake itself is fruitcake, which is very dry. It also contains alcohol. The cake is then completely sealed by two sugar coatings, so it can be stored for years. Sugar craft decorations are completely edible, but nobody eats them of course,'' she said.
Lee took sugar craft classes outside of her core curriculum at Japan's famed pastry school, Ecole de Patisserie de Tokio (Tokyo). In 1997, Lee became the first Korean to win a special award at Japan's annual pastry competition, Exposition des patisseries de l'Est du Japon.
Cakes cost 150,000 won and up. Orders must be made two weeks in advance. Call the patissiere at 010-6324-2876. Her studio is located in Samjeon-dong.