By Linden Wilson Local pastry chef Jessica Bartl of Jessica's Cakes has been in the baking business for almost 30 years, but it was only mere days ago that she officially added a uniquely sweet element to her resume. Sweet Blooms, made entirely out of sugary gum paste, are incredibly realistic, detailed flowers and greens designed as cake decorations or individual arrangements.
Bartl had toyed with the idea of incorporating gum paste designs into both her store products and her classes (she teaches baking part-time) for several years. She initially learned the method from friends and in classes she took from notable pastry chef Nicholas Lodge in Chicago and Atlanta, but it didn't become her focus until now.
"Some people hate the idea of spending a fortune on real flowers, only to watch them die so soon after," Bartl says, referring to wedding floral arrangements. "Some brides are allergic to real flowers, and my mom is very sensitive to the smell of lily varieties. Gum paste is a firm product when it dries . . . the flowers don't smell, and they don't die." Bartl says she still has an arrangement of gum paste hydrangeas she made four years ago that are in perfect condition.
Gum paste is a great alternative because a bride can customize her colors without losing the botanical correctness of the flowers, and it also happens to be edible; Bartl says it tastes like a Necco wafer.
Daisies, roses, peonies, gardenias . . . these are only a few of the flowers Bartl loves to create using shape cutters. She's currently trying to master the lisyanthus, a soft, fluttery flower that's popular for weddings, and would eventually like to include lilacs as well as Daphne and fern plants.
Although Bartl says she enjoyed learning the gum paste method from other people, she is also constantly teaching herself. "When I see something I want to do, I just figure out how to do it," she says. "I get that silly little smile when I finish one and think, 'That looks real.'"
Jessica's Cakes, (612) 291-7799, firstname.lastname@example.org