Kasko’s desserts aren’t just mesmerizing—they’re also delicious. And now they’re for sale in the U.S. for the first time.
Boston’s Jonquils Cafe & Bakery offers eight Kasko desserts, including a cake that looks like a handful of cherries, concealing layers of dark chocolate mousse, cherry confit, and crisp crunch over chocolate sponge. There’s also a cubist apple and a vegan, artichoke-shaped cakelet, built from banana, mango, lime, lychee, and passion fruit compote over coconut spongecake and mandarin mousse.
Kasko designs the products, prints the molds, and creates the recipes from her studio in Ukraine; Jonquil’s cakes are baked on-site by a pastry chef. On a June visit, Kasko approved of the results as well as the customers’ reactions, which were often confused.
“They asked the waiter: ‘Is it a cake? Real cake? Not plastic?’ My main goal is to surprise people,” she says.
Kasko didn’t start off as a gravity-defying pastry professional. Initially, she trained as an architect and worked as a 3D visualizer. In 2013 her baking hobby kicked into something more, when she made a batch of raisin-speckled biscotti; six months later she won an online pastry contest with a cone-shaped stack of exotic fruits and chocolate.
Her breakthrough came when she decided to create a pyramid-shaped cake designed with modeling software. To turn the image into a mold, she had a prototype milled from wood—it was not a success. But Googling “3D printer” unearthed a Ukraine local with a hand-built model. He printed the pyramid; she had it cast in silicone, then filled it. “When I unmolded this cake and saw it, I understood: Now I can do everything I want,” Kasko says.
Since then she’s created desserts that look like rising bubbles, stacks of spheres, and rippling waves, which top her “geometric kinetic tarts.” Kasko generally starts with an idea—say, the peaks formed by ferromagnetic fluid—which she models and prints. Then, instead of stacking and frosting like most bakers, she works upside down, filling her molds with mousse, pressing in layers of cream, crunch, fruit, and cake, and then freezing. In a dramatic reveal popular in her YouTube videos, she peels free the crisp shape and sprays it with a brilliant blast of hot-red glaze or deep chocolate shine.
Kasko plans to extend her reach with a line of molds coming out in September on Amazon.com (beware the imitation ones currently online), though you can buy some now on her own site. Dinara Kasko Pastry Art is scheduled to open this fall in Doha, and she’s creating an online baking course that will premiere later this year. The other place to find her pastries is Pearls Desserts in Moscow. Says owner Vladimir Perelman, with Russian bravado: “Kasko’s fans—and there are billions of them—have discovered that these complex, geometric desserts are impeccable not just on the outside but on the inside.”
As one of Kasko’s “billion” fans—stranded a good distance from both Boston and Moscow, with no shipping available—I decided to go DIY. I know my way around a cake: There are more than a dozen recipes for them in my 2014 book, Slices of Life: A Food Writer Cooks Through Many a Conundrum, though nothing so compellingly complex as what I found on her website. Shoppers select solely based on appearance, so I went straight for the tessellation—one of those mesmerizing patterns that repeats endlessly for reasons I failed to grasp in math class—and the cherry cake and purchased the molds from Kasko’s site for about $55 each, recipes included.
The tessellation mold came with a recipe for an unconventional carrot cake. Some ingredients were familiar to my pantry: eggs, flour, sugar, oranges, carrots. Some were not, such as dextrose powder, pectin, citric acid, and white food coloring. I skipped the yogurt powder, made my own invert sugar, and never checked out on Amazon, leaving a $330 food-grade airbrush spray gun idling in my cart. The rest—spices, oil, milk, and such—I had on hand. Testing costs were $160 including the mold, but now I’ve got gelatin stockpiled for life.
Following the instructions, I baked a quarter-inch-high spongecake and cut it down to a 7-inch square, then chopped a “confit” of mango and carrot, thickened it with gelatin, and froze it into a thin sheet. I caramelized walnuts. I whipped up a mousse, layered it with the other unlikely carrot cake components, and froze the whole thing solid.
Twenty-four hours later, I pulled out the frozen form and peeled away the flexible mold, exposing perfectly clean, undulating waves. Given that I’d opted out of the spray gun, and had failed at improvisation with a plant mister, water bottle, and pump-action squirt gun, I pooled white chocolate in a shallow bowl, dipped, and flipped. There were some drips, but, honestly, it looked stunning.
That first bite was a revelation. Brittle chocolate shell, creamy mousse, chunky fruit, crisp caramel, tender cake—all in a single forkful. Suddenly, birthday cake seemed as flat-footed as a cylinder.
Inspired, I later took on the cherry cake, which was more complicated—and less forgiving. The glaze, composed of water, sugar, dextrose, pectin, glucose, citric acid, and fat-soluble food coloring, didn’t take well to decorating improv. The dip method produced less glazed cherry than pink glop. To be honest, I’m reconsidering that $330 spray gun. With cakes like these, it pays to go all-in.
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