Hansen’s cake designs inspire awe, disbelief
By Adam Sparks
The short answer is yes, it really is cake.
The long answer is significantly more interesting.
Bob Hansen is a general contractor by trade, but his true passion lies in constructing designs of the edible variety.
But not like any you’ve ever seen.
That’s because each of Bob’s creations is unique, built almost entirely from scratch with specific people in mind and — here’s the kicker — almost always entirely edible. There was the anniversary party for the fisherman and the ballerina, for which Bob crafted a gorgeous three-layer chocolate-buttercream-frosted chocolate and vanilla cake topped with a 5-inch rainbow trout tying on ballet slippers.
Like so many of his finished products, the ballet fish cake was so stunning that partygoers had a hard time cutting it up and eating it.
Bob enjoys the positive feedback, but he’s far from content and continues working to improve.
“To me, the cakes I do aren’t that special, because I look at other people who have years of training, culinary training, and there’s no comparison,” he says.
Still, there’s no denying the talent of this self-taught cake designer. Particularly if you consider just how far he’s come in a short time.
Bob’s early days of cake design were all about trial and error. While hosting a dinner party one night in 1996, he decided to take a crack at designing a cake modeled after the iconic Starship Enterprise, from the “Star Trek” TV series. “It completely flopped,” he says now, laughing.
However, the proverbial flame was lit.
Bob began acquiring the proper tools, and continued practicing and soaking up all he could from TV shows and books that focused on cake design. He took particular interest in learning why cakes respond in particular ways in ovens and in mixing bowls.
“Trying to understand the chemistry of cake is important to me,” Bob says.
He eventually started his own cake design business, appropriately named “Is It Really Cake?” His creativity, combined with the practical application of his contractor skills, allowed him to envision and produce stunning, edible works of art.
The ballet fish, for example, was a two-day project designed to be a cake-topper that could be saved long after the rest of the cake was consumed. The project began with a hand-crafted clay model of a rainbow trout. From the model, Bob cast two molds of silicon, one for each half of the fish. He then boiled down sugar into liquid form and poured it into the molds, which then went into the freezer. Three hours later, the sugar trout was ready to be painted with food coloring, and Bob was spot-on with his representation, ending up with a 5-inch rainbow trout that was completely lifelike in every way.
Except for the fact it was wearing a tutu and putting on ballet slippers, of course.
Like many artists, Bob tends to get lost in his projects, completely enveloped by a design, a factor that might help explain the amazing, intricate detail of his cake creations, but one that can also leave him a bit lonesome in the kitchen.
“There are times when I bake, my family leaves the house, my dog goes and hides under the bed. … I’m so focused,” he says with a chuckle.
Bob’s family and friends have helped him progress as a cake designer, taste-testing his creations along the way. Because as Bob notes, what’s the point of a cake if it doesn’t taste good?
These days, Bob’s tasty treats are used as striking centerpieces for special occasions, such as weddings, anniversaries and graduations.
Should you happen to find yourself at a celebration where one of Bob’s creations is featured prominently on the dessert table, listen closely, because you’re sure to hear someone ask “Is it really cake?”
And the answer, of course, is yes, it really is.