“I imagine it’s like surgery. The first time you perform it on someone it’s probably gross, then when you get good at it you don’t feel like that anymore”, says Georgia Flower, 27, owner of Gigi’s Cakes.
This Edinburgh-based baker isn’t in medicine.
Instead, after painstakingly making each of her hyperreal cakes, they undergo an operation of sorts, in that she slices them in half to make an Instagram reel for followers.
To destroy all that work is a reminder that food is ephemeral, no matter how long something has taken to make.
In order to promote other Edinburgh businesses that she thinks are “awesome” and to “create a conversation” with them, she’s made cakes including a perfect replica of a tub of Alandas Gelato, and a highly detailed Social Bite mortadella and Isle of Arran Cheddar sandwich, in a box that’s complete with a clear plastic wrap made from gelatine.
“I was pretty distraught to cut that one in half,” says Flower, who is originally from Winchester.
“The scariest thing is knowing how they’ll cut. You’ve only got one chance. I’ll start, and halfway through I start to think I should have sliced it differently”.
There’s a Grams pink takeaway coffee cup, which she cuts to satisfyingly reveal perfect layers of fluffy sponge and buttercream, a bowl of ramen, a packet of East Coast Cured chorizo, aka a vanilla cake, and El Cartel cochinita pibil pork tacos, which look savoury but are in fact very sweet.
She’s also made a red velvet cake fillet of salmon for Welch Fishmongers and a bucket of chicken wings for Wings Edinburgh.
The set of edible wood-effect stacking rings was inspired by Portobello-based children’s clothing business Bon Tot, as well as Flower’s baby son, who recently crawled up to her while she was shooting a reel, and attempted to smash her creation up himself.
Luckily, she shot the video just in time.
Any of these surreal cakes could easily be mistaken for the real thing.
It’s impressive, considering Flower only started baking full time a year ago.
“I’ve done it my whole life as a hobby, but it wasn’t until I went onto maternity leave with my last employer in November 2020 that I thought about where I wanted my career to go. I was at a junction with the new parenting thing,” says this baker, who operates from her home kitchen in Edinburgh’s Haymarket.
“It was a plunge I’d always wanted to take but never felt ready. At that time I had a reason to find something that I could balance around looking after my son and I wanted to, really importantly, raise my kid while in a role where they can watch mum being really happy in what she’s doing. I needed to crack on and stop finding excuses”.
This decision came alongside moving from London to Edinburgh to be with her boyfriend.
As she says, “We thought it’d be a better environment and we could live our happy family life, all fluffy and with unicorns”.
Flower’s previous roles had been in product development, for brands including Bear Snacks, who make fruit Yo-yos for kids, porridge brand Stoats and a low sugar ice-cream company, Oppo Brothers.
“I’ve always worked in food and drink, that’s been my beating heart, but there’s a different type of creativity to making cakes than making snacks for the supermarkets”, says Flower.
However, she has utilised plenty of the skills, science and knowledge she’s picked up in her previous roles to make her line of hyperreal gateau.
Her interest in this genre was sparked by the social media and YouTube presence of some global stars in this field, all of whom have hundreds of thousands of followers online.
“I follow a lot of cake companies. I started off with novelty, which isn’t quite hyperrealism but is still based on an item or a theme.
"That’s what naturally pulled me towards a few very good bakers in the world that I was just in awe of,” she says.
“There’s one from Turkey called Red Rose Cake, another from Texas called Sideserf Cake Studios, and one from the UK, The Bakeking.
"They were creating a social media presence through these remarkable cakes, and often they were so realistic that you couldn’t believe it.
"I found that really intriguing and became slightly obsessed. I thought I’d love to try and see how good I can get and that’s still a journey I’m on. Really it was just because I was such a fan”.
Rather than making random objects, Flower decided to pay tribute to the foodie scene in the Scottish capital - “it’s such an inspiring place for food lovers” - and is now picking up paid commissions from corporate brands.
Alongside this side of the business, her bread and butter work is creating celebration and wedding cakes.
These are less surreal, but still impressive, especially when it comes to botanical themes.
While Flower’s hyperreal cakes can take around a day or more to make, her wedding cakes are weeks in the design, planning and creation.
Although lockdown has diminished the overall amount of wedding commissions that Gigi’s Cakes receives, she’s discovered that people want to spend more money and really push the boat out when they can eventually get married, especially if they’ve done a lot of postponing over the last year or two.
There will also potentially be fewer guests at these events, so the cakes will be made to serve fewer people, which suits Flower, and not just because logistically they’re easier to transport.
“People want to have something exciting, but on a smaller cake, which for me is wonderful and aligned with what I like to offer,” she says.
“You can go to town with the design because the bigger cakes require more engineering just to make sure they’re properly put together”.
She’s had lots of requests for her marble, concrete or stone finish cakes, which you can see on her website, including ones that are covered in autumn leaves, and she has a big project in the pipeline for the start of 2022.
“It’s quite a good one - really extravagant”, she says. “It’s a hybrid of South African and Scottish flowers on three tiers of different flavoured cakes.
"I think it’ll be quite a tall order because it’s got things like bird of paradise flowers on it. Fortunately that cake has a buttercream finish, which takes slightly less steps to make than one with fondant or marzipan icing. It’ll be good fun”.
The individual blossoms, which are made from rice paper or gum paste, are what takes up most of the time with a cake like this.
“Each can take 20 minutes, and there will be hundreds of them”, she says. “They’re the most heartbreaking to see cut up because it’s always such detailed work”.
Her other speciality is catering to clients who want vegan, low sugar or gluten-free cakes, and her previous experience in product development helps her to think laterally when it comes to ingredients.
“I know quite instinctively how to do that. I can’t certify anything because my home kitchen handles all the allergens but I can work with whatever challenge is presented by customers”, Flower says.
“I’ve used aquafaba quite a lot in buttercream. For cakes I tend to use things like pulse flours instead of egg white, because they’re quite high in protein, and potato starch to bind ingredients together”.
She also tries to use a lot of local ingredients, but also trusted quality ones that she discovered in her earlier career. Among other things, these include President or Graham’s Butter, Billington’s Sugar and Callebaut Belgian Chocolate.
After all this baking, you imagine that Flower must be sick of the sight of cake. She must absolutely hate it.
“It’s terrible but I still love it, and I think it makes up about 50 per cent of my diet”, she says. “I’m always experimenting with flavours and you get to realise how much a cake isn’t just about ingredients, but how it’s made. Each bite is exciting”.
She’s also been using it as good “bait” to meet other new parents in the city she now calls home.
As Flower says, “I’ve always got a freezer full of cake samples, it makes hosting easy if not a bit predictable”.
We bet she’s going to make a lot of friends.