1870 Mag

Let Them Eat Art

Ohio State graduate Natalie Sideserf creates cakes you eat with your eyes and mouth.

Natalie Sideserf, Ohio State alum and cake house queen, is reminding us that it’s fun to play with our food.

Owners of Sideserf Cake Studio in Austin, Texas and hosts of Food Network’s Texas Cake House, Natalie and Dave Sideserf of Cleveland, Ohio have been dishing up elaborately sculpted and edible art for around a decade. Their Instagram (@sideserfcakes) is littered with cakes camouflaged as onions, dogs, Prison Michael Scott busts, longhorn cattle, and t-rexes in sweaters. These sculptures are detailed and made with a lot of love – which is why I was devastated to see a slice chopped out of Prison Michael’s ultra-realistic bandanna. Natalie loves it.

“That’s my favorite part!” she said and then laughed. “There’s something I always say: I start with scratch ingredients – you’re taking flour, butter, sugar, eggs and you turn those into a cake, and then you turn the cake into a sculpture, and then everybody devours it. Everybody’s engaged and excited – I love when they eat it.”

I’m on speaker phone in their kitchen for this interview, and Dave and Natalie are all easy laughs. They crack a few jokes and Natalie answers all my questions while Dave bakes an orange creamsicle cake in the background.

“It smells amazing in here,” Natalie comments. I’m miles away and I can feel the comfort of the kitchen.

Natalie seems to love everything about her work, which she stumbled into completely by accident. After graduating with a fine arts degree concentrated in drawing and painting, Sideserf was confronted with the dilemma we all have to face: What now?

“I wasn’t really sure what direction I was gonna go in…and I was actually thinking more of murals. Then the cake kind of came out of nowhere,” she said.

At a friend’s suggestion Natalie tried a sculpted cake and immediately realized the potential.

She started without a clear grip on “the materials” —cake and chocolate weren’t the usual mediums. There weren’t a lot of videos or tutorials available either.

“I had to kind of make it up and just wing it,” Natalie mused. “I was a little insecure about things – I didn’t ever imagine that I would be able to open my own place and do all of this. I had to build my confidence. I really had to put myself out there.” Out of her comfort zone and unsure of a direction, she began to practice and master treating cake like art.

”It was a little intense,” she joked.

Following that potential, the Sideserfs moved to Austin and Natalie joined a small bakery that did some sculpted work. Hungering for more (haha get it?), Natalie entered an Austin cake contest and created her fame-winning masterpiece: a cake bust of Austin favorite, Willie Nelson.

“That was wild…I could not find anything remotely close to that,” she recalled. “There were no bust cakes, I couldn’t find realistic human cakes whatsoever and I was like I’m gonna try it.”
Willie Nelson – or his cake counterfeit – went wildly viral, ending up on the front page of Reddit. Interview requests began to pour in with questions about her work, and Natalie realized how incredible the opportunity could be.

They opened Sideserf Cake Studio about a month later.

Dave, a foodie as well, left his job and became a full-time baker at the studio, using his experience as the director of a tech company with some impressive accounts (like Coca-Cola and Walmart, to name drop a few) to run the business side of things. It was much needed – their popularity grew, and soon they found themselves with their own Food Network show, Texas Cake House. However, Natalie tries to keep her identity as an artist set before TV host, with her main goal as pushing pastry into crazy fun forms and experimenting with new techniques.

“If I’m using the same material over and over again, it gets a little like I’ve got this one, now let’s move on to a new one. Just something different.” Natalie says as she rattles off some recent cake challenges.

New to the list – and probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen – is a cake onion (I know this doesn’t sound glamorous, but you need to look at it on Insta).

“It was really fun to make this little onion!” Natalie laughed. “It was almost like doing a still life. When I’m able to just focus on something small and try a new material it’s so cool. I layered up the skin of the onion so when you cut it it cracks and flakes – it looks real…it’s funny because it’s just an onion but there’s something so unique about it.”

Inspired by what surrounds them – and good old pop culture – Natalie and Dave have been making some ambitious cakes lately. Galaxy painted (and life-sized) rams are pretty trippy to look at. Rick and Morty’s Rick can be spotted next to an uber realistic steak, which comes after a human heart cake that goes pretty nicely with the Michael Meyers bust and severed limbs that rolled out in October. Even with all the crazy new developments, Natalie can’t help but be nostalgic about the man that started it all.

“I would like to revisit the Willie Nelson cake. I’ve learned so much since then, so many different techniques and what not. I would love to just make it over again just to see how much I’ve grown.”
Sideserf Cake Studios plans on growing as well. I dragged Dave away from his baking to get some inside information on how soon I could have my own Michael Scott cake.

“We would love to expand from Austin, even out of Texas. Ohio is even on the shortlist of places we’d want to be, because we’re both from there,” Dave commented. “We just want to be sure we grow at a pace that’s sustainable—we don’t want to be overwhelmed with orders. We do these big elaborate cakes, but we also do smaller…I guess ‘normal’ cakes.”

With their plans for global domination in place, I can only wait patiently for their sweet art to make its way at least a drivable distance. In the meantime, I’ll drool over the tutorials and confection-based content on their YouTube channel (Sideserf Cake Studio) and try my best to recreate the t-rex in a sweater.

Samantha Ketter

Samantha Ketter

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