How to Make Those Fabulously Unhinged Cakes You Saw on Instagram
Release your wiggle and master the eye-popping pastry techniques defining a new generation of bakers.
If you’ve been keeping up with food trends on social media, chances are you’ve noticed some weird-ass cakes creeping into your feed lately. You know the look—lopsided, whimsical, and baroque, with bushy foliage and flowers poking through the frosting and thick chunks of fruit smushed straight into the sides.
This striking new aesthetic—pioneered by a cohort of young bakers like Amy Yip, Jamie Rothenberg, and Aimee France—is everything conventional pastry isn’t: freeform, imprecise, and refreshingly unserious.
But the genre is so new that scant resources are available for home cooks eager to dabble in the “anti-cake” chaos. After all, most baking books don’t teach you how to make slumped, wobbly cakes—they aim to do just the opposite.
So when Aimee France—the 23-year-old baker who goes by YungKombucha420 on Instagram—invited us into her tiny Bushwick kitchen for a lesson in unconventional cake decorating, we jumped at the opportunity to watch the artist at work. Here are her top tips for bakers looking to branch out.
Create distinctive patterns and designs.
Run-of-the-mill garlands, buttercream roses, and fondant accents won’t do—let your imagination run wild and get inspired by nature, fashion, and geometry. Aimee uses lots of lines and dots. “I never go into decorating a cake with a specific plan or idea of what it’s going to look like in the end. I just kind of freestyle,” she says.
Use architecture as inspo.
Crown molding, capitals, domes, motifs—architectural elements like these find their way into Aimee’s cake designs.
Toss the tip.
To create the Van Gogh-like ruffles and swirls that make Aimee’s cakes so trippy and hypnotic, she frequently forgoes metal tips and pipes on the icing straight through the hole in the pastry bag.
Go crazy with color.
No color is out of bounds when it comes to frosting, as evidenced by Aimee’s jaw-dropping charcoal-gray and black cakes. Visit your local kitchen store (or shop online) to stock up on unconventional food colorings, then play painter and blend them to create even more distinctive hues. Aimee skips artificial dyes and instead uses spices and natural colorings (such as activated charcoal and butterfly pea tea) to create her signature earth-tone palette.
Fresh produce is your friend.
“I love using seasonal ingredients because there’s always something new to look forward to,” Aimee says. This time of year, she’s reaching for cranberries and citrus, which “add a little zing” to chocolate cakes in the form of fillings, frostings, and garnishes. When the ideas aren’t free-flowing, she reaches for The Flavor Bible, which helps her figure out what ingredients might play well with one another.
Lean into the lean.
Aimee’s cakes are so gorgeous in their topsy-turviness that you might assume she relies on protractors and complicated support systems. But that couldn’t be further from the truth: “You can make a cake, but gravity is the force of life,” she said, adding that she lets the layers settle organically, which sometimes results in a tilt. To prevent the cake from collapsing, she often inserts a single dowel through the center of the cake.
The concrete jungle of Bushwick is no forager’s paradise, but when Aimee goes on vacation or visits her hometown in New Hampshire, she returns with wildflowers and bushels of wild herbs, which she presses and dries for year-round garnishing. Chamomile and hemlock are two of her mainstays. But just because an ingredient is pretty doesn’t mean it is edible—be sure to do your research!
Spice up your frosting.
Literally. Beyond adding color and texture, spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and dried herbs lend complexity and depth to an otherwise one-note frosting.
Aimee's cakes are available for purchase in the New York City area and must be ordered at least two weeks in advance via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.