People Love Hyper-Realistic Cakes, But There's A Major Flavor Problem

Any fan of competition baking shows knows there are virtually endless ways to replicate everyday objects and even living things in cake. From the challenging "illusion cakes" on "Great British Bake Off," to an entire Netflix series, "Is It Cake?" dedicated to guessing if an object is in fact made of cake, this trend has spread like wildfire in recent years. The popularity of these cakes — and guessing if they were or weren't the real thing — took off during the pandemic. That was when hundreds of locked-down bakers became more experimental and shared their creations online, and millions of social media users began searching for new memes and entertainment.

However, bakers who have created these colorful confections have a cold hard truth to share along with their cake plates full of lies. As fun as these creations look on TV and Instagram, they do not taste particularly good. 

As disappointing as it may be to learn, many of these cakes share one critical flaw, and it's the same thing that often makes them so deceptive: Most of them are decorated with a lot of fondant. The fondant used for these cakes is essentially just sculptable sugar-paste made with corn syrup and gelatin. It's very malleable, dyeable, and can be stretched over whole cakes or molded into decoration, but that gives it a strange texture and virtually zero flavor, which obviously can be off-putting in a cake.

Why fondant is overrated

As intriguing as many illusion cakes may look, the real trick is getting people to believe they'll taste delicious, which many of them just aren't. Many professional bakers have expressed skepticism about the popularity of hyper-realistic cakes because they rely so heavily on the use of what is essentially dry, stretched-out marshmallow to pull off their convincing disguises. As versatile as fondant is, it also "tastes like crap" according to Nitash Lalkaka, a gourmet baker from India who spoke to Mint. Lalkaka compared the texture and taste to Play-Doh and said most people like the look of it, but prefer to peel it off the cake before they eat any large amount of it.

Pastry chef and "Ace of Cakes" host Duff Goldman, who regularly uses fondant in his work, told Insider that it's not the best-tasting ingredient, and says he substitutes it with marzipan when he can. Marzipan has a similar, versatile consistency, but tastes better as it is made with almonds along with sugar, giving the flavor more substance. Other better-tasting alternatives suggested by baking mold company ComposiMold for those looking to get creative with their cakes, include gum paste, isomalt, sugar candy, or chocolate.