Gilty Pleasures

With the Ladies of Cake Opera Co.

Got a sweet tooth? Then proceed with caution, because the following information can be heart pumping, saliva inducing, sensory-overload and dangerously delicious. We’re not kidding.

Even though Marie Antoinette has been famously credited with stating, "Let them eat cake" while referring to her fellow countrymen, the truth is she never actually uttered those words. But if Madame were alive today, she would absolutely speak that phrase if she happened to gaze upon the cakes and confections from Cake Opera Co.

Alexandria Pellegrino and Jessica Smith form the wildly talented duo that is Cake Opera Co., founded in 2007 and based in Toronto. Alexandria, the resident 'artiste,' and Jessica, the patissier, compliment each other's talents and have created a totally unique take on the art of cake making. They describe their look as dramatic, evocative and design-sensitive, gearing their fearless pieces to truly confident connoisseurs of sweets.

"Baroque influence is everywhere," explains Alexandria. "Early on as a painter and sculptor, I drew most of my inspiration from the 18th Century bourgeois and the alluring concept of beauty and the sublime. As I began to shift my focus from fine arts to cakes, I fell in love with the frivolousness and fleeting beauty of cakes. The Rococo era perfectly encapsulated the ideas I was trying to portray."

Salted caramel and heart-shaped macarons, boudoir-blue meringues, dark Valrhona chocolate bars flavored with pink sea salt, white sesame and crystallized ginger are just some of the incredible confections they offer.

The Belle Époque, dark fairy tales and Victorian tradition of Memento Mori also inspire and make their way into their work, sometimes very gently and at other times as sweeping bold in-your-face statements.

Sofia Coppola's dreamy, poetic film on Marie Antoinette's stylish life and influence as a major trendsetter is a constant source of inspiration and pleasure at their studio. Alexandria says, "I love the thick and visceral atmosphere she created by use of visually stunning cinematography, costume and sounds. It was chilling. We play the soundtrack in our shop all the time!"

Alexandria's art takes the form of delicately sculpted, ornate cakes with her signature hand-modeled shapes like birds, Louis XIV and Venetian Moretto Mask figurines. Their cakes would not be complete without gilded flowers, gold and silver flourishes, (edible) Faberge eggs and other rich design elements that seem to explode off their pieces.

Cake Opera Co. also offers divine dessert tables called Operettas, in themes like Enchanted Forest, Black & White, Bohemian Chic and Ethereal White that can be filled with your choice of chocolate tablets, marshmallows, meringues, butter cookies, nougats and of course, cupcakes.

Salted caramel and heart-shaped macarons, boudoir-blue meringues, dark Valrhona chocolate bars flavored with pink sea salt, white sesame and crystallized ginger are just some of the incredible confections they offer. Step into their pastry shop on Eglinton Avenue West and you will find many of these tasty treats along with their petit gateaux, just waiting to be devoured.

For Jessica, the pastry chef, the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. She loves the moment when her clients take their first bite at a consultation. She's a firm believer that tradition is more important than trend. Taste above all else!

She adores classic lip-smacking combinations like dark chocolate and fresh raspberries, honey and nougat, and black currant and lavender. She prefers to forgo the flavors of the moment like trendy bacon buttercream.

Precision and great taste are non-negotiable for the pair. Jessica loves the idea of creating flavors that transport the client back to an amazing experience through taste. "We always try to evoke a sense of nostalgia for our clients with timeless flavors," Jessica says.

She also confides that she is totally in love with their Red Velvet Cake with White Chocolate and Cream Cheese Buttercream and, if she could, she would eat it every day. Their most popular flavor for wedding cakes is the Bourbon Vanilla Princess Cake with Fresh Lemon Buttercream and Blueberries, described as slightly tart, textured and refreshing. Yum. Their Banana Cake with Salted Caramel Ganache and Milk Chocolate Buttercream is also a major hit among their loyal clientele.

Newlyweds Nicole Richie and Joel Madden, who tied the knot in December 2010, had their towering Versailles-themed, white and gold embellished red velvet wedding cake created by Cake Opera Co. The lucky couple was depicted in sculpted sugar on the top of their cake, complete with period powdered wigs and all.

Lady Gaga and Madonna top the list of celebs for whom Alexandria would love to create a cake. Any kind of cake. She is enamored with their creativity and show-woman-ship. (We agree.) Jessica's current idol is Kim Kardashian. She loves Kim for her over the top glam factor and would be thrilled for this celeb-cupcake fan to try out their very popular, delicious cupcakes.

Not to worry though, Cake Opera Co. makes plenty of incredible cakes and sweets for mere mortals too. The dynamic duo suggest booking their services at least nine months to a year in advance if possible, particularly if they need to travel to make and assemble one of their elaborate pieces.

They are proud of the fact that they attract a sophisticated clientele that really wants something unique, something special created just for them; in essence, a bespoke cake. In the five years they've been a team they've never had a single client ask them to copy a cake from a photograph. Their customers are encouraged to dream and discuss freely what they see ideally in a cake.

Alexandria and Jessica take their inspiration and wedding details into account before they embark on the process that includes the client's input from start to finish to give them the most beautiful, personal one-of-a-kind piece possible.

Okay, hungry yet? You were warned!

--Juli Alvarez

 
 
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