Brain Pickings

Modern Art Desserts: From Mondrian Cake to Matisse Parfait

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Edible masterpieces from the pastry chef at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

As a lover of modern art, Mondrian-inspired creative projects, and unusual cookbooks, I was instantly enamored with Modern Art Desserts: Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Confections, and Frozen Treats Based on Iconic Works of Art (public library) by Caitlin Freeman, pastry chef at the Blue Bottle café at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s, which she roams for inspiration, then translates the artwork into edible masterpieces. From Matisse parfait to Mondrian cake to Frida wedding cookies to Fuller hot chocolate, the recipes hit the spot for art-lovers and foodies alike, adding an extra layer of whimsical delight to the art of dessert.

The story of the Blue Bottle café is itself a heartening tale of modern creativity. It was founded by Freeman’s husband, James — a former professional clarinet player and hobbyist coffee-roaster — in 2002, after he started experimenting with roasting coffee at home and began selling his drinks at Bay Area farmers’ markets. A few years later, he dreamed up a cafe at Rooftop Garden of the SFMoMA and approached them with the idea. The museum loved it. Meanwhile, Caitlin had just sold her own pastry business, so the timing was perfect for her to bring her talents to the newborn venture. The rest, as they say, is modern history.

Mondrian cake

Donald Judd tomato soup

Rothko dessert

Modern Art Desserts is, in both the punniest and least punny way possible, an absolute treat.

Photographs via Kobini

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