Consider, for example, the eye-popper made for the Griffith Observatory celebrating the 25th anniversary of the first moon landing. It featured a cake Earth that spun on a motorized turntable and a giant, papier-mâché-and-gold-foil sun. About 80 square feet of sheet cake (it served 2,000 people) — topped with Rice Krispies treats and crunched-up white chocolate and sprayed with an edible silver powder — simulated the lunar surface.
Then there’s the multilevel Mexican Day of the Dead cake she created for the rock group Alice in Chains, with each member represented by a skeleton and the lead singer represented by a snake. “It was like an altar piece,” Katz says. Or the Batmobile/Batcave cake she made for comedian Jeff Dunham’s wedding. The list goes on and on.
But it’s not always rainbows and unicorns in Cakeland. As Janet Jackson knows, malfunctions occur at inopportune moments — like the time a gorgeous, 30-inch-tall replica of a 24-karat-gold Faberge egg, made for a client in Bel Air, pulled a Humpty Dumpty in Katz’s van. “One of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do is call a customer and tell them, ‘I’m sorry, but your cake just died,’ ” she says. “We lost $1,500. It was a sad day.”
Katz earned her 15 minutes of fame on a 2006 episode of Food Network Challenge, where she vied with five other pastry-design chefs to make the best cake in honor of Elvis’ birthday (she finished third). She credits the network with launching the high-end cake industry “into another stratosphere” and creating more competition, which she welcomes. “That’s what propels you to new heights,” she says.
Better yet, it’s spurred the creation of new decorating products that allow for even more lavish creations.
“The sky is the limit these days,” Katz says gleefully. “You’re only limited by your imagination.”
KEN WYSOCKY is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and editor who loves to bake — in the hot sun on a chaise lounge.