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Shades of Gray

Four Chicago cake designers reveal their process and inspiration for bringing a chic new trend—gray—to the realm of wedding-cake design.

Femme Confection
A monogrammed five-tier cake by Mindy Gohr of Bittersweet Pastry Shop

CAKE DESIGNER Mindy Gohr, Bittersweet Pastry Shop, 1114 W. Belmont Ave., 773.929.1100 
CREATIVE PROCESS “Sometimes I sketch a design, but for this cake the design evolved in my head as I was creating it.”
INSPIRATION “For me, what I chose not to use was more important—such as ombré, which is visually appealing and incredibly popular right now. I also did not want to use any geometric elements that I feel are typically paired with the color gray. I wanted to take this cake in a different direction.”
MOOD “I wanted to create a cake that is beautiful, feminine and soft, while using a color that might typically lean in the direction of modern and masculine.”
APPROXIMATE TIME TO COMPLETE “I could say it took eight hours to bake, build, frost, stack and decorate, but that doesn’t include the time I spent contemplating design aspects while I was working on other projects.”
INSIDE AND OUT “In keeping with the theme of gray, the first flavor I thought of was anise (or licorice). We make a delicious almond anise biscotti at Bittersweet, so I paired our almond cake with dark-chocolate anise ganache, iced with our vanilla Italian meringue buttercream and covered with a thin layer of fondant. The paintbrush texture on the outside of the cake was made with royal icing.”

CAKE DESIGNER Sophie Evanoff, Vanille Patisserie, 2108 N. Clark St.; 2229 N. Clybourn Ave.; 131 N. Clinton St., 773.868.4574 
CREATIVE PROCESS “I began by looking at photos of other gray cakes and also thinking about what style or trend I want to incorporate into the design. For this theme, I knew I wanted to use ombré to get as many shades of gray as possible into the design.”
INSPIRATION “I wanted the cake to have a dark side and named this cake Glamorous Mystery because it follows the popular ombré and rhinestone trends while using a more unusual color palette.”
MOOD “I chose a focal flower that is a little dark to bring a hint of mystery, but also used rhinestones to make the flower pop.”
APPROXIMATE TIME TO COMPLETE “The process took 14 to 16 hours to make all the components of this cake, which included individually attaching the rhinestones and silver pearls onto the tiers.”
INSIDE AND OUT “We used red velvet with cream cheese filling, and our chocolate blackout cake with a thin layer of raspberry jam, dark chocolate diplomat and fresh raspberries.”

CAKE DESIGNER Janet Lee, Flour Cake & Pastry, 2409 N. Western Ave., 312.265.1922 
CREATIVE PROCESS “I first think of different ways I can interpret a theme like Shades of Gray. I love shapes and textures, and I like a little hint of color to make the cake design pop.”
INSPIRATION “I first went looking for patterns and found one that reminded me of a dress my mom used to wear: vintage, classy and elegant, like her. I added the deep purple flower to accent the rhinestones on the cake.”
MOOD “The reaction I want when the bride sees the cake is, ‘Wow, that cake is elegant, simple and not overdone.’”
APPROXIMATE TIME TO COMPLETE “It took two days for baking, frosting and decorating.”
INSIDE AND OUT “Chocolate cake with hazelnut mocha mousse decorated in fondant. Fondant has a reputation for tasting bad, but I am one of the few cake designers who uses fresh-made fondant on my cakes that tastes like marshmallow goodness.”

CAKE DESIGNER Jennifer Johnson, Madame Gateau, A Cake Boutique, 312.504.0628 
CREATIVE PROCESS “I usually start by looking through art books and playing with different color palettes until the inspiration finds me.”
INSPIRATION “I knew I wanted to present this traditionally cold color in a warm and sexy style. I used a damask filigree pattern, which I find to be very romantic in a boudoir sort of way, to guide me through my design. I used silver to give a modern edge to the print.”
MOOD “I wanted to create a little drama.”
APPROXIMATE TIME TO COMPLETE “This cake took a little over a week’s time, which started with sketching out my design and making all the flowers.”
THE OUTSIDE “This fondant-covered cake had edible silver-leaf butterflies and handmade gum paste roses.”