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May 16, 2022

Artful cakes

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By Vivienne Pearson

I have to touch one before I can believe it isn’t real. Before me is a garland of leaves, flowers and berries, with each element as delicate and nuanced as the real thing.

I am in a cake-decoration studio, not a florist’s. The flowers before me are ‘sugar art’, with each petal carefully created, before each flower is painstakingly constructed from several, dozens or even hundreds of petals. The whole garland is then arranged with a precision that belies its natural appearance.

The natural home of these flowers is on a wedding cake; preferably a tiered, white wedding cake. They can also adorn christening, birthday or other-occasion cakes – and are a fabulously fancy option for corporate catering – but weddings are where they most often show their beauty.

Emmy Roberts is the sugar-art queen who has created the flowers I am looking at. Cake Bijou is her brand-new business, which is in a brand-new building (the Kollective – live/work spaces on the right of Ewingsdale Road if you’re driving into Byron Bay).

Emmy is self-taught and, in the four years since deciding not to return to her travel-intensive PR job during her transition to parenthood, she has gained followers around the world – with teaching workshops planned for Abu Dhabi and the UK. ‘I learned via YouTube,’ she says. ‘There are so many ways to make a sugar rose – I would concentrate on one flower for a month until I perfected it, then move to the next one.’

In doing so, Emmy developed unique designs and techniques. ‘Australia tends to be quite traditional in its approach to sugar flowers but that’s starting to change,’ she says. ‘People are bringing in inspiration from fine art and couture.’

Emmy’s knowledge of the biology of flowers has grown alongside her quest to replicate them. She works from real flowers; deconstructing them and creating moulds and cutters to help her then reconstruct them in sugar.

Her methods do not lend themselves to mass production. ‘One rose can take up to two hours so, at most, I can make two or three wedding cakes a week,’ Emmy says. It’s not all about roses – Emmy’s range includes orchids and ranunculus. Given enough time, she can make any flower you like. Details such as the veins on the backs of leaves, thorns on rose stems, and water droplets are included in her high-end creations.

Emmy is, currently at least, the cake baker as well as the decorator. ‘That in itself is a four-day process,’ she notes.

The end result is a work of art. But is it edible art? ‘They are safe to eat but I don’t recommend it,’ says Emmy. ‘They are edible in that they are completely safe, but they don’t taste that great and no-one really needs that much sugar.’

Emmy is often asked whether she minds that her elaborate creations are short lived. In fact, some couples opt to keep their sugar flowers as a memento of their wedding, displaying them in a glass box. However, Emmy doesn’t mind if they only last as long as the occasion they are made for. ‘Their impermanence is okay,’ she says. ‘I enjoy the process of making them and they are designed to be appreciated in the moment.’

She is also asked whether teaching (she offers 1:1 sessions and will soon offer small group classes in Byron Bay, in addition to her wider workshop teaching) means that she is giving away her secrets. ‘When I started, there were very generous people who gave their time and expertise to me,’ she says.

Emmy grew up moving around Europe, including France, where the name of her business is taken from. ‘Bijou means delicate workmanship or beautiful jewel,’ she says.

It’s an ideal name, as her sugar flowers are created through incredibly delicate workmanship and her creations decorate cakes even more beautifully than jewels.

Cake Bijou: www.cakebijou.com.au, 0432 746 564. Instagram: @cakebijou

Bijou wedding cake_supplied

Bijou wedding cake

Cake Bijou The Kollective

Cake Bijou at The Kollective

Artful cake decoration


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