Tasty Trompe L’oeil
By Ladianne H. Mandel
Photos courtesy of Sweet-Art and Susan Migirditch
Susan Migirditch is truly a magician. Give her a few hours in the kitchen and she’ll likely bake you something so incredibly realistic that you, like her husband, might mistake it for the real deal. “I made a cake that looked just like a real sub sandwich,” she said, “and when my husband walked in he said, is anybody gonna eat that sub? I told him to take a closer look.” It was, of course, a skillfully, artistically, and very convincingly decorated cake.
The person who ordered the sub sandwich cake was on a singular mission. “I took that photo of the sub sandwich cake before I added the writing my customer requested. The person who ordered that cake worked in a sub sandwich shop and wanted to quit. After I wrote the words I quit on top in icing, the person who ordered the cake took it to the manager of the shop. The manager lost an employee, but they gained a cake,” Susan said, laughing. When asked what the sub shop manager thought of the creative way in which the employee bowed out of their job, Susan responded, “the manager was actually thrilled!”
Although Susan has had one customer use her cake baking and decorating skills to execute an exit strategy from a place of employment, Susan is anything but a quitter. “I taught myself. I figured it out – how to make these cakes – but I’m not trained. I was classically trained in art and worked in graphics and marketing. Then I was an art director before I decided I’d had enough and left that world to raise my kids. That was the best decision I’ve ever made. The kids and I did lots of creative things together after that,” Susan said. They particularly had fun in the kitchen together.
Her two boys, who are now 17 and 19 years old, have always loved Susan’s passion for cooking. “The boys would say, Mom, when we go to other kids’ houses we have – you know – dinner. But at our house we have these hysterical productions instead of normal dinners,” Susan explained. “I love savory cooking, and we would do these elaborate international dinners at our house.”
Several years ago, when Susan started noticing that artfully decorated cakes were gaining popularity, she decided to try her hand at creating a lizard cake for a birthday one of her sons was having. “He was really interested in science and nature, and he loved this one type of exotic lizard,” Susan recalled. “I created it in cake – I even got the texture of the skin correct. The whole thing was edible, even the rocks the lizard was sitting on.”
Susan said she gains inspiration through photographs – and sleep. “I usually get photos from people of the things they would like to have their cakes resemble. Then I go to bed and sleep on the ideas.” All of this allows her to figure out how her creations will be constructed and decorated, she explained. “I try to make my cakes completely edible instead of using internal support structures inside the cakes.”
Of course, with her edible artwork it’s not all about how the cakes look – taste is critically important as well. “Some of my customers know exactly what flavors of cake and icing they want. Others ask me to decide,” Susan said. When the flavor decisions are left up to her, Susan tries to introduce interesting twists into the mix. “I love adding something savory, like citruses or lavender, to sweet cakes. Savory flavors compliment the cakes well.”
Susan is truly passionate about her work. “I get to combine art and food. It’s really rewarding!” Susan said. Susan’s business has grown well beyond that of making cakes only for her family. Susan’s customers are all over the Charlotte metropolitan area, and at present she has orders going into August of this year. “I’m a one woman shop, so it’s really best if people go ahead and let me know when they will need their cake.” The fact that she gets paid to put smiles on her customers’ faces, is – say it with us now – icing on the cake!
To get more information on Susan’s cakes, pricing, and ordering, please visit the website for her business, Sweet-Art.