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Monday, April 22, 2013

'Modern Art Desserts': How To Bake A Mondrian In Your Oven

from The Salt
by Heidi Glenn

  • Left: One of Piet Mondrian's grid-like color block compositions. Right: Caitlin Freeman's cake homage.
    Art 2013 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International USA/Dessert Clay McLachlan/Reprinted by permission from 'Modern Art Desserts
As an artist, Caitlin Freeman found her calling in cake.

Freeman started out wanting to be an art photographer. But one day, while still in art school, she came across Display Cakes, artist Wayne Thiebaud's 1963 painting of frosted confections, during a visit to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The image was so arresting, it stayed with her for years, and later inspired her to set off on a completely different career path: baking.

"I wasn't really sure what I loved about [the painting], but I really just became obsessed with cakes," Freeman tells The Salt.

Over the past several years, Freeman has made a name for herself by crafting desserts inspired by the great works of modern art on display at SFMOMA. She sells these edible art bites at the Blue Bottle Coffee bar, the cafe she and her husband, Blue Bottle founder James Freeman, operate inside the museum.

The project started as a cake-with-your-coffee concept. Appropriately enough, one of the first modern art sweets she put on the menu was an homage to Thiebaud. These days, she has a full menu of desserts — and some savory items, too — that gets updated as often as new art exhibits rotate through the museum.

In their hands, the bathing suit pattern in a beach portrait from photographer Rineke Dijkstra becomes a striped icebox cake. A layered trifle echoes the horizontal lines of color in Ocean Park #122 by Richard Diebenkorn.

And then there's the cafe's most popular item, a dessert inspired by the art of Piet Mondrian, featuring geometric blocks of white velvet cake, colored red, blue and yellow, stacked together and "glued" with chocolate. In her new book, Modern Art Desserts, which came out this week, Freeman details how to make this signature confection: It's a two-day effort involving four separate cakes and assembly blueprints.

*Images reprinted with permission from Modern Art Desserts: Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Confections, and Frozen Treats Based on Iconic Works of Art, by Caitlin Freeman, copyright (c) 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.
The SFMOMA will soon close for renovations for three years. Until the museum and café reopen, you can find Freeman online at her blog, Modern Art Desserts, telling the stories behind her work-of-art desserts.

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