How to Grow (Yes, Grow) Pinterest’s ‘It Dessert’ This Spring
Chef and cult cake creator Rose Wilde shares her garden-inspired creations.
If you’ve spent any amount of time on social media lately, you’ve probably encountered some sort of cake-meets-flower arrangement that stopped you mid-scroll. From whipped toppings studded with kumquats and cosmos to colorful domes dotted with finger lime caviar and pink heirloom chicories, these bakery bouquets are having a moment and they are just as delicious to eat as they are delightful to look at.
Rose Wilde, a master gardener and celebrated pastry chef who has spent time in many of L.A.’s best kitchens, is taking her cake creations to the next level with an unusual selection of garden-grown produce that’s changing the way we think about decorating sweet treats—let’s just say our garden planning has been reimagined for spring and summer baked goods.
From plucking the perfect passion flower, to arranging small clusters of loquats, Rose wants us all to look at our gardens and farmer’s markets a bit differently and use that peak produce or weekend harvest in new and exciting ways. Here she shares her inspiration, tips and what to plant when “growing” your own cakes this season.
“Wild Flour” desserts have become a huge 2023 trend; why do you think this style is suddenly catching on?
The style of wild natural cakes has become popular in response to decades of pristine perfect cakes. Like in art, after worshiping artists whose work matched life with no brushstrokes, immaculate and seemingly out of reach, there was suddenly a move to impressionism. That’s where I think we are in cake art—deep in our feelings, expressing the ugly is beautiful, that is food art.
Tell us about your cake creations.
I offer dome and beehive cakes, which are layer cakes that finish in a curved top. I think they are such showstoppers! The curved dome gives so much opportunity for sculpting a unique cake. They are unique and attention grabbers. Popularized in the early 1900s as the cakes of royals, they’re a luxury that should be brought to every table.
Where did the inspiration for these wildly fun cakes come from?
Nature is endlessly inspiring with all the gifts unique to each season. I am constantly learning about new produce, herbs, or flowers that inspire flavor, color, and movement. I keep a lot of magical scenes from literature and movies in my head—all the Disney food scenes and Willy Wonka inform my sense of whimsy. I find color and decor inspiration in the still lifes of Dutch Masters, whose paintings showed life in bloom and decay in equal parts. I love to decorate with flowers missing their petals or just the center; it creates a sense of life and time caught in a moment.
What are your all-time favorite garden-grown ingredients to use for a cake decor:
Living in California I enjoy decorating with citrus all year round! I also adore decorating with “vegetables” such as blossoms of the chicory family, adding gorgeous colors and bitter touches. I also use celery leaves, which are delicate and herbaceous. Artichokes and fairytale eggplants are also in play. My motto is “Cake Is Salad,” so any chance I have to make your cake have deeper flavor and more balance I lean in hard.
Any decorating tips or things to consider when using ingredients from the garden?
When decorating I rely on some classic art rules about composition. I like asymmetry and negative space. I begin with one of three piping tips—a fat ribbon, a vertical ribbon, and a shag tip to add movement to my cake and the initial canvas. Then I go for bold colors and love to have florals leaping beyond the height of the cake. When decorating with less common produce, it’s all about knife work. Cutting off the base of lettuces leaves you with rosettes and pulling apart leaves gives you petals to scatter. Knife work can also change more common ingredients into magical ones—cut a rose in half lengthwise and it resembles an artichoke.
How do the flavors of the actual cake reflect their outer decor?
All of my cake decor reflects the flavors you’ll find underneath the buttercream. I decorate with fresh elements of the internal prepared elements—fresh strawberries might appear on top when inside it’s filled with vinegar-roasted berries. I’ll usually pull my colors from the ingredients, creating a limited palette where I can play with tonal changes and texture. I think good cake decoration is like a good book cover, it should tease you with what’s inside.
What are your top plant recommendations for a home gardener looking to start growing their own cake decor?
Flowers: Sunflowers, cosmos, and passionfruit.
Herbs and Tender Greens: Basil, chicories, and lemon verbena.
In a small garden, multiple uses are key. All these plants want to grow vigorously in their season. I get so much flavor out of them as well as decoration.
For even more home-grown cake inspiration, check out Rose’s Instagram where she regularly posts new creations, and stay tuned for her highly anticipated first book, Bread And Roses, out fall 2023.
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