Modern Art Desserts: Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Confections, and Frozen Treats Based on Iconic Works of Artby Caitlin Freeman
From a fudge pop based on an Ellsworth Kelly/b>
Taking cues from works by Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, and Matisse, pastry chef Caitlin Freeman, of Miette bakery and Blue Bottle Coffee fame, creates a collection of uniquely delicious dessert recipes (with step-by-step assembly guides) that give readers all they need to make their own edible masterpieces.
From a fudge pop based on an Ellsworth Kelly sculpture to a pristinely segmented cake fashioned after Mondrian’s well-known composition, this collection of uniquely delicious recipes for cookies, parfait, gelées, ice pops, ice cream, cakes, and inventive drinks has everything you need to astound friends, family, and guests with your own edible masterpieces.
Taking cues from modern art’s most revered artists, these twenty-seven showstopping desserts exhibit the charm and sophistication of works by Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Henri Matisse, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Avedon, Wayne Thiebaud, and more. Featuring an image of the original artwork alongside a museum curator’s perspective on the original piece and detailed, easy-to-follow directions (with step-by-step assembly guides adapted for home bakers), Modern Art Desserts will inspire a kitchen gallery of stunning treats.
"Let them eat cake…and art! Thanks to Caitlin Freeman, an author neé pastry chef with a unique and fresh talent, we can do just that. Freeman has written a visually rich book of charming dessert recipes from which you can re-create edible versions of your favorite works of modern art."
“This book gets my ganache flowing—if only art history always tasted this good.”
—Todd Selby, photographer and author of Edible Selby
“Brilliant, quirky, and irresistible. Having tasted many of these dishes over the years, I’m not sure what’s more exciting, the recipes or the stories behind them. All dessert books should be this much fun!”
—Daniel Patterson, chef-owner of COI restaurant
“Only Caitlin Freeman is brave enough (and crazy enough) to dream up desserts inspired by works of modern art—and inventive enough to pull it off. Who looks at a Cindy Sherman self-portrait and sees an ice-cream float made with bubblegum soda, or at a Richard Avedon photograph of a beekeeper and pictures a glossy honey-pistachio parfait? This is more than a cookbook, it’s a journal of the creative process.”
—Oliver Strand, food journalist and coffee columnist for the New York Times
“The desserts Caitlin Freeman has created for the SFMOMA Blue Bottle Café are masterpieces in their own right. It’s one thing to make the most perfect white cake, frosting, and ganache; it’s another to use those media to create art, as she has with her Mondrian Cake. That is Caitlin’s special gift, and one that she has generously shared in this beautiful book. It, too, is a masterpiece.”
—Charlotte Druckman, food journalist and author of Skirt Steak:Women Chefs on Standing the Heat and Staying in the Kitchen
“This book touches the body’s most sensitive organ—the stomach. Most artists dream of creating works so provocative that they stimulate the brain while enervating all the other senses. Caitlin Freeman, probably the most innovative baker this side of Mars, does this spectacularly. Here’s a cookbook that demands you genuflect before its sheer creativity. It says ‘on your knees’ in a sugared tone.”
—Bompas & Parr, authors of Feasts with Bompas & Parr and founders of the Bompas & Parr studio
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Read an Excerpt
Eat Your Art Out!
Foreword by Rose Levy Beranbaum
I first met Caitlin in 2004 when I visited her Miette Bakery production in Oakland. The purpose of the trip was to interview top bakeries for an article for Food Arts Magazine called “High Tide in the Bay Area Bakeries.” The concept was that, although San Francisco had led the way in artisanal bread baking, it had lagged behind in the area of pastry. Michael Battery, visionary publisher of Food Arts, perceived this as changing and assigned the article.
Meeting Caitlin turned out to be the highlight of the interviews. I had been given a set of questions to ask each baker. When I asked Caitlin where she and her partner, Meg, had gotten their training, to my astonishment Caitlin’s answer was that she had started with The Cake Bible (my book). Was it any wonder that she captured my attention? But beyond the compliment, and in addition to her solid organizational and technical skills, I was struck at once by Caitlin’s extraordinary creativity. The signature Miette cake, which she named the Tomboy, consists simply of three unadorned dark chocolate layers, filled and topped with a contrasting white buttercream, and decorated with just one small pink sugar rose in the center. Caitlin most generously gave me permission to include the recipe in my book Rose’s Heavenly Cakes and even sent me some of the pink sugar roses for photography. The art director loved the cake so much that she used the photo to span the end pages, and by enlarging it created an impressionistic dreamy appearance, contrasting spectacularly with the all-dark chocolate cake I had designed for the cover.
Over the years, as I watched Caitlin’s work evolve, I saw that generosity, creative genius, and integrity were the hallmarks of her personality and character, permeating everything she touched. With every project or visit, Caitlin continued to gain my respect, and ultimately a deep friendship evolved. It may sound like a small thing, but any baker will realize how much it meant to me that when I traveled to San Francisco to make my friend chef Daniel Patterson’s wedding cake, Caitlin loaned me a turntable from her bakery, and not just any turntable but the one that turned the most smoothly. She also drove all over the Bay Area amassing the equipment and special ingredients I deemed essential for my production.
The launch of my most recent book, Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, coincided with the opening of James Freeman’s (Caitlin’s husband) Blue Bottle roastery in Oakland. Caitlin came up with the inspiration to have a book party at the new roastery and invite bakers from the Bay Area to make their versions of recipes from the book. Caitlin and her baking partner, Leah, made artistic renderings of the Diebenkorn using my génoise, mini Mondrians using my white velvet cake, and a Josef Albers cake using layers of my carrot cake, quail egg cake, and red velvet cake, each covered with rolled fondant from The Cake Bible. People came from all over the Bay Area to taste the cakes, enjoy a special coffee drink created for the occasion, meet the bakers, and the author who never stopped meeting, greeting, signing books, and talking for a solid three hours.
I first met James Freeman at the Old Oakland Farmers’ Market when Caitlin and he had just started dating. I remember thinking that he had the same reverence for the quality of his coffee as Caitlin and I had for our baking. Given the grace, harmony, and focus of her life choices, is it any wonder that Blue Bottle coffee happens to be the best coffee I have ever tasted? Happily, Blue Bottle coffee and Caitlin’s wonderful pastries are now available in New York City as well as the Bay Area.
When Caitlin started to create recipes for SFMOMA inspired by designs from paintings she loved, I knew this would be the perfect expression of her talents as artist and baker. Three of Caitlin’s edible art desserts, featured in this book, that I find the most enchanting are the white velvet cake and chocolate ganache, consisting of cake squares and rectangles of different sizes and colors held together by thin lines of ganache—a perfect replica of Piet Mondrian’s Composition (No. III) Blanc-Jaune / Composition with Red, Yellow, and Blue; the pistachio and honey parfait with cardamom/white chocolate—a stunningly simple cube constructed from thin white chocolate squares, charmingly decorated with line drawings of bees, and containing a deliciously ethereal filling, inspired by Richard Avedon’s Ronald Fisher, beekeeper, Davis, California, May 9, 1981; and the adorable salted chocolate and vanilla bean ice cream sandwich—shaped to emulate the poodles in Katharina Fritsch’s Kind mit Pudeln (Child with Poodles).
I’m so proud and honored that Caitlin chose to use two of my cakes as the base for some of her creations. She asked permission, saying: “They are perfect as they are—I’d rather credit you than adapt and change them.” How like Caitlin not to change things just for the sake of “owning” them. To me that is the ultimate sign of creative integrity and shows such a strong sense of certainty and security in her vision. Beyond the visual beauty, and engagingly accurate renditions of the paintings that inspired them, Caitlin’s desserts are also uncompromisingly delicious. This book is unlike any other and a perfect reflection of the soul of Caitlin Williams Freeman. It is with great pleasure that I welcome this dear friend and fellow baker to the world of cookbook writing.
Kelly Fudge Pop
Makes 8 to 10 fudge pops
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
From start to finish: 4 to 5 hours
Do Ahead: Stored in an airtight container, the fudge pops will keep for up to 2 weeks in the freezer.
Above and Beyond: This recipe works well in any ice-pop mold, but if you want to create a miniature edible Ellsworth Kelly sculpture in your home, see Resources (page 205) to order the silicone ice-pop molds we use at the café.
8 ounces (227 g) high-quality bittersweet chocolate (62% to 70% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
11/4 cups (10.4 oz / 290 g) heavy cream
1 cup (8.6 oz / 242 g) whole milk
1/4 cup (1.8 oz / 50 g) sugar
4 teaspoons natural (not Dutch-processed) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Have ready 10 ice-pop molds. If your molds are flexible like the ones we use at the museum, set them on a rimmed baking sheet.
Place the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl, add the vanilla extract, and set aside.
In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the cream, milk, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking often to break up the lumps of cocoa powder, until bubbles start to form around the edges and the temperature of the mixture registers 180°F to 190°F on a digital thermometer.
Immediately pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and stir with a whisk or blend with an immersion blender until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is a smooth liquid (a thoroughly emulsified mixture will yield the most creamy fudge pop). Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve set over a liquid measuring cup.
Pour the chocolate mixture into the ice-pop molds and freeze until solid, at least 4 hours or up to 2 weeks; follow the manufacturer’s instructions for inserting the sticks. If you don’t have ice-pop molds, pour the chocolate mixture into ice cube trays; freeze until partially frozen, about 30 minutes, and then insert a toothpick or short wooden skewer into each ice pop. Continue freezing until solid.
Unmold the fudge pops, dipping the molds into warm water to loosen, if needed, and serve.
Meet the Author
A self-taught baker and longtime owner of the San Francisco cake and sweets shop, Miette, CAITLIN FREEMAN was inspired to bake by the confectionary paintings of California painter Wayne Thiebaud. After selling Miette in 2008, she started the pastry program at Blue Bottle Coffee Co. and coauthored The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee. Her artistic creations for the Blue Bottle Café at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art have been featured in the New York Times, Design Sponge, Elle Decor, San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, and more. She lives in San Francisco, California.
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