Inspiration Board | Natalie Sideserf

For Natalie Sideserf, a hyper-realistic cake sculptor, everything has the potential to become a cake. “It’s the first thing that pops in my head,” Sideserf says, “I’m just always thinking about cake and what would translate well.” And nothing is off-limits, including herself.

In 2013, Sideserf drew national attention for her own wedding cake, which featured the bloody disembodied heads of herself and her husband-to-be, Dave, as well as the words “’Till Death Do Us Part,” inspired by Dave’s love of horror movies. “We were married at the Alamo Drafthouse, so it kind of went with the movie theme.”

A fine artist by training, Sideserf graduated from Ohio State in 2008 with a concentration in drawing and painting before discovering her talent for sculpting cakes. At a friend’s urging she tuned into some cake-focused Food Network shows and got inspired to try it herself. “Instead of approaching the cake how maybe you’re taught if you went to pastry school, I approached it how I would with my own background and went from there.”

Drawing inspiration from hyper-realistic sculptors like Ron Mueck and Evan Penny, Sideserf works from photographs to capture an extreme level of detail in each piece she creates. Carefully designing each creation, Sideserf will spend 20 to 40 hours on a cake, or more if it calls for a higher degree of detail. After planning a structure to keep the cake upright, she bakes and stacks the cake before covering it in the material, often modeling chocolate, that will be sculpted, and then hand-painted and airbrushed.

A Cleveland native, Sideserf’s five years in Austin has fueled her creativity. Most recently she’s been working on bringing something to life that doesn’t exist in the real world — the Piranha Plant from Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. “I’ve been researching plants, Venus fly traps,” Siderserf says, “and coming up with this creature and how I think it would look if it really existed.” Virtual reality has never been so delicious.

  • A book of Ron Mueck's artwork—I reference his hyper-realistic sculptures when making human-shaped cakes.
  • Paint Brushes—A background in art has made hand painting my preferred technique to add color to cakes.
  • Edible fake blood—Sometimes I use special effects makeup techniques on cakes. This “blood” is one of many examples of an edible equivalent to FX makeup materials that I have found by experimenting.
  • Kitchen Aid Metal Paddle—An essential cake-making tool.
  • My mother's hand-me-down Cleveland Browns sweatshirt—I grew up in Cleveland and will root for the Browns no matter how many times they lose.
  • Horse tooth necklace from Chile—My husband got me this gift while traveling for work. He knows me too well.
  • Dusting Pouch Filled with Cornstarch—A dusting pouch helps lay an even amount of cornstarch on a surface to keep sugar-based materials from sticking.
  • Rolling Pin—The rings on the ends of the pin help to roll materials to an even thickness.
  • Food-safe Palette—I mix gel food coloring and edible powdered colors on a palette, similar to working with traditional fine art paints.
  • Food safe sculpting tool—My cake sculptures are extremely detailed and this tool's fine point makes it my go-to.
  • Scratch Marshmallow Fondant Mixed with Modeling Chocolate—My preferred material to sculpt with. Its texture is similar to clay and it tastes great!


Photography by Bill Sallans

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