February 6, 2018
Cakes have held a place in the special moments of our lives for thousands of years. In fact, cake is as rich in history as it is in flavor with some of the earliest evidence of its existence dating back to the Egyptian era. With the addition of simple ingredients like honey, milk, and eggs, people from cultures across the world turned traditional breads into sweetened confectionary delights. Cakes have always been cause for indulgence and celebration. Today we have cakes to mark significant moments and milestones like birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and other ceremonious occasions.
Wow Factor Cakes has been providing artisanal confections worth celebrating to the Charlotte area for over 16 years. They have created one-of-a-kind centerpieces for weddings, event cakes for a variety of affairs, and some special works of art for celebrities like Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, Bruno Mars, and Ed Sheeran.
In 2016, now owner Lei Christine Garcia, was looking for a bakery to buy. She happened upon The Wow Factor Cakes, thanks to a mutual friend, and met Marianne Warrick who had been baking at the company for two years.
“We hit it off instantly and both had the same vision for how to grow the business. The product was great and we were of the mentality that ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ so we’ve kept most of the original recipes,” said Garcia.
We visited Wow Factor Cakes on a rainy Sunday morning as Warrick, who is the current lead designer, created a cake for Lana Del Rey’s performance in Charlotte. The process, we learned quickly, is much more than only cake and icing. The creation of each cake is a delicate combination of art and careful calculation which, for Lana’s cake, would take place over two days.
The first step, after baking, is to trim each layer so the cake will be level once stacked. Then brush on simple syrup to add sweetness and to uphold the integrity of the product. For Lana Del Rey’s cake, layers of lemon cake were placed one atop the other and held together by lemon curd filling and lemon mousse to create the first of three tiers. The same process was repeated for the second tier, which was white cake with Oreo buttercream and chocolate ganache, and again for the top tier of white cake with funfetti buttercream.
Each tier is then trimmed from top to bottom to even out the sides. Next, a “crumb coat,” or the initial coat, of icing is applied to further even out the surface and capture crumbs so they wouldn’t disrupt the final coating. Tiers are placed into the fridge to chill for at least half an hour before the final coat of buttercream is applied. For this mesmerizing process, each tier sat atop a circular stand and was rotated as layers of buttercream were piped, starting from the bottom, until the entire cake was coated. Then, Marianne uses her tool of choice (a metal scraper from Lowes) to smooth out the sides for a pristine, polished finish.
On day two, the iced cakes are taken from the fridge after chilling overnight and now it’s time for fondant (a thick paste made of sugar and water used in the making of candy and icing). Heaps of the Play Doh-like substance are rolled into thin sheets and draped over each tier. With two smoothing tools resembling small irons, Marianne creates an even surface and trims the excess from the bottom for a perfect finished product. After coating and stacking all the tiers it’s time to decorate.
“Whenever I create a cake for an artist I spend about a week before listening to their music. It sounds weird but I try to connect with who they are so I can create something that speaks to them” said Warrick, about designing the Lana cake. “Lana is very flower child and feminine but also pretty tough.”
The design for the cake, which Marianne hand painted, is a montage of roses and daisies depicted inside of a molded floral mirror painted with gold. A red ribbon, which oscillates between actual ribbon and icing, trails along the cake from top to bottom. Along the bottom, the name of Lana’s tour “Lust for Life” is piped on in a red serif.
The same amount of in-depth planning and meticulous preparation is taken with every cake made at The Wow Factor. For every client there is an assessment and tasting to determine flavor profile and a collaborative design process. Almost any vision can be brought to life.
“It is special to touch something so personal in people’s lives. We do everything we can to ensure clients feel that level of care so we build lasting relationships,” said Christine. “We treat each cake like it’s our child. Truly… we physically carry it to the venue.”
Learn more about The Wow Factor Cakes located at 2400 Park Rd, Charlotte, NC 28203.