We are catching up with Alli, the cake designer and artist behind Cakes4Sport. In this feature, she discusses how her background in ceramics and anthropology led her to approach cake design as a sculptural practice, embracing the ephemerality of her creations. She also shares her thoughts on finding an unexpected niche in the fashion world and her aspirations for the future.
N: Hi Alli, how are you today? What are you whipping up in the kitchen?
A: Working on several commissions at the moment! I’m currently making brown butter and it smells amazing. I can't wait to sit down.
N: On your social media, we see your cakes take the center stage, while you maintain a more discreet presence. I'd love to learn more about you. Could you tell me about your upbringing and background?
A: I'm originally from San Diego, CA. I did a lot of sewing, baking, and DIY activities with my mom and grandma as a kid, which laid the foundation for my creativity. I never went to art school.
I was very serious about ballet, which comes with its own relationship with fashion - costuming, of course, but also studio wear with its wild DIY sensibility.
After quitting ballet, I studied Biological Anthropology, and then slowly I found my way to art. I started working with ceramics around 2017 and began working with cake in 2019.
N: Your fascination with the "consumption" of your work is very interesting. You've mentioned appreciating the fact that your creations must be physically destroyed to be fully enjoyed. Could you elaborate on this idea?
A: Working in ceramics and having an Anthropology background, I couldn't shake the thought of excavating large amounts of pretty "whatever" ceramics. It's such a permanent material! I started to drive myself crazy with the weight of these ideas of value creation, materiality, and our climate emergency. That's when I started approaching my cake making as a sculptural practice. Having an endpoint helped lighten things up; I felt like I could be more daring, knowing that the work was going away forever, not just living elsewhere, but completely gone.
N: Speaking of consumption, it's intriguing that your artistry has found a niche within the fashion industry, leading to multiple collaborations. Fashion, like food, has a certain ephemerality and eventually "goes bad". What are your thoughts on this parallel?
A: Ooh, this is a very interesting thought! I do think this is part of why my work was embraced by fashion - it's one place where it's actually possible to have something fleeting, because it's all fleeting. The thought of going bad, however, makes me think of fashion's waste problem and the implications of trend cycles.
My work is meant to be ingested, not to spoil, so I've been pretty discerning about how I engage. Going stale, however, is natural.
N: Success as a cake artist doesn't follow a predefined recipe, pardon the pun. What aspirations do you have for your career moving forward?
A: Honestly, this is something I struggle with daily, since it can feel very ambiguous at times. I never imagined I would be making art at all, let alone declaring cake as sculpture.