JulAug Issue – Showcase Spotlight: M. Cassandra Fairbanks

For the 2016 That Takes the Cake show in Austin, Cassandra Fairbanks recreated Gustav Klimt’s iconic painting, “The Kiss.” She shared the backstory to her incredible creation here.

I wanted to create a painted cake with an image of a famous painting on it. I went looking for something that was popular enough to be recognizable but not so over done that it would appear kitschy. I also really wanted something with gold accents. When I saw Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss”, I knew I had my cake. In my mind, I saw the off centered compact form of the couple fitting perfectly on a cake. I saw gilded flowers, gold sequins, and antique frames. And I got excited. When I get excited about an image there is no turning back. I had to create this.

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I started off by airbrushing my cake with warm ivory, gold, and brown tones to prep my canvas. Then I took royal icing and piped in my drawing using a projector to make sure I got the proportions correct. I tried to build up certain areas to give it more depth once it was painted. In other places I watered the royal icing down and painted it on with a brush so it would be smoother. I took my time and put in as many details as I could with the royal icing. Once that was all dry I began my painting. I started off with my background. This was done with a mixture of dry brushing petal dusts on and painting with petal dusts mixed with cocoa butter.

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Cocoa butter is my favorite medium to paint with. I usually place my plastic painter’s pallet over a bowl of hot water. I add scrapings of cocoa butter to the middle and let that melt. I place different colors of petal dusts around the outside and then begin mixing the oil and pigments together. The fact that you can layer lighter colors over darker ones and build up thickness appeals to me.

I blocked in most of my colors on ‘The Kiss’ couple and then began to work on the details. There is nothing more fun than putting in all those little details that you have to get up close to see. The blush to her cheeks. The shadows around his fingers. The little flowers in her hair or tiny squares on his clothes. This was a very time consuming subject to paint but so much fun. In the end I added some gold luster dusts to my paints and added highlights and gilding to the painting.

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The rest of the aspects came in as a result of the painting. This was a picture of wedding, a celebrating couple, with flowers everywhere so I continued that with flowers sprinkled on the cake, each with gilded golden edges. I wanted golden sequins on the divider layers but wasn’t sure I liked the painted confetti look so I tried out gelatin which let me get intense colors without all the opaqueness. I used hole punchers to punch out sequins from the colored gelatin sheets I had made.

The frame was added for a couple of reasons. I wanted a nod back to the original painting, an image to hang on the wall, but I also needed something to visually pull the eye up and to the left. The top cake layers and image was set off center on purpose but without the flowers and frame is felt heavy on the right. The frame balances out the image and pulls the eye up and around and back to the image of the couple.

At the moment this is my all-time favorite cake. I wish I could hang it on my wall and smell it all day long since it smells like chocolate. Wouldn’t that be the best.

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About Cassandra:
I have a BFA in ceramics and made my first ever fondant covered cake for my wedding 7 1/2 years ago. I’m a stay at home mom of two, a 4 1/2 year old son and a 6 month old daughter. I’m self-taught in cake techniques but feel my art background is a great asset. I usually introduce myself as an ‘artist trained cake designer and decorator’. I say thank you with cakes and am happy to eat my art instead of filling up my closets with ceramics pots.

Website: http://www.cakesbycassandra.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cakesbycassandrafairbanks

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