At SFMOMA, Cake is Art

Seriously.  Art. Rachel (who also starred in "Ay, Oh.  Homemade Cannoli..." and is seen on the right in the photo below taken at Caitlin's birthday...hence the tiara) invited me on a date with her mom to the SFMOMA.

rachel caitlin kiera

Rachel's mom, Cathy, is not only knowledgable about art, but she also knows a thing or two about baking.  Cathy wanted to check it out because she saw one of the desserts from the SFMOMA's Rooftop Coffee Bar on "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" and made Rachel invite that nice baker friend of hers to come along.  :)

The Rooftop Coffee Bar is operated by Blue Bottle Coffee.  {...Throw head back.  Pause.  Dramatic sigh...} Yes, that's right.  I said Blue Bottle Coffee.  That devilishly good coffee.  Too much caffeine for a non-Seattle girl to handle at 6pm, so I opted for hot cocoa, which I'm happy to report was still quite devilishly good.

Rooftop Coffee Bar

Unfortunately, I did not bring my real camera to the SF MOMA.  I [naively] assumed that SF MOMA would no likey cameras, or the people that bring them.  Instead, I used my iPhone camera.  Please bear with me as these are not my finest works of art.

It turns out the resident pastry chef at the SF MOMA is Caitlin Freeman, who is also the co-founder of Miette.  She has since left Miette and currently creates the beautiful pastries for the Blue Bottle Coffee shops, which happened to be owned by her husband, James Freeman.  Talk about a power couple, right?  (Yes, in my world, artisan coffee + artful cake = almighty power.)

While each of the dessert options were beautiful, Rachel and Cathy went with the one featured on "The Best Thing I Ever Ate", and ordered the Mondrian Cake -- a composition of red, blue and yellow.  This is the art that inspired the cake design:

Here is Rachel's slice of Mondrian cake - a rich white velvet cake intricately lined with Valrhona chocolate ganache:



An article from SF Gate describes how this cake is made:

"Freeman makes one Mondrian cake per day. She bakes a big oblong white cake and smaller yellow, red and blue cakes, and cuts them into long thin shapes. She coats each of the pieces in ganache - a thick, rich covering of cream and dark chocolate - reassembles it all in a long loaf pan, lets it chill overnight, then ganaches the whole thing.

Each slice has squares of yellow, blue and yellow interspersed with white squares separated by dark chocolate lines."

There is an amazing story behind how Caitlin started her love affair with the type of retro-looking pastry you would find in Miette, which un-coincidentally is very similar to the look of Wayne Thiebaud's cakes.  (It's kind of lame, but also kind of fitting, that the reason I realized I was familiar with the work of Theibaud.  In my wedding photography search (probably through a link forwarded to me from Vale), a photographer named Kate Harrison photographed a wedding with one of the more artistic and creative wedding dessert tables I've ever seen.  The dessert table was basically a recreation of Thiebaud's painting "Cakes" (1963), shown below.

This painting was brought to life for the wedding by Ana's Creative Baking.  Here are a few of Kate Harrison's photographs of this dessert table:

The Thiebaud Cake is inspired by the paintings Display Cakes (1963), shown below, and Chocolate Cake (1971).

This cake comes in two flavors -- a chocolate cake with coffee ganache and vanilla buttercream as well as a yellow cake with lemon curd and raspberry buttercream.  I ordered the latter.  Here is a slice of Thiebaud heaven next to my hot cocoa --  barista art!


There are much prettier photos of the SF MOMA desserts in Blue Bottle Coffee's gallery.

I think I need to go back to sample one of everything and get some better photos.  If it wasn't so chilly that night, I would have ordered this fancy little Tony Cragg Ice Cream Cone with it's inspiration in direct view at the rooftop garden.

tony cragg icecream cone - sfmoma

Sweet Distraction: Try out this neat little interactive game where you can make your own Theibaud cake display, you know, in your free time...or maybe a mess-free creative activity for your tech savvy kid.