It’s Not Just a Wedding Cake, It’s ‘Edible Haute Couture’

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By Margaretd. Regina

Sebastien Blanc-Tailleur, a Parisian pâtissier, has always had a passion for confections. “I’ve been obsessed by pastry since I was a little boy,” he said. Since opening his eponymous business in 2015, Mr. Blanc-Tailleur has discretely become one of the most prestigious creators of wedding and special-occasion cakes in France.

“Pastry making is my own sweet form of madness,” he said with a grin. “But it comes from my family. My parents are collectors who love rare antiques, fine paintings, art and drawings, so I perpetuate the family tradition through the medium of pastry.”

In addition to making cakes and pastry, Mr. Blanc-Tailleur, 32, has also become a serious collector of antique books about pastry, especially cherishing those by the 18th-century chef Antonin Carême and about pastry molds. “With their shapes and intricate detailing, pastry molds are a unique expression of France’s gastronomic history and artistic heritage,” Mr. Blanc-Tailleur said.

“This guy has gold in his hands,” said Yannick Alléno, a Michelin three-star chef for whom Mr. Blanc-Tailleur had worked as sous-chef pâtissier at Ledoyen, a restaurant in Paris, in 2014. “He has an amazing humanistic sensibility and might even be the reincarnation of Michelangelo,” Mr. Alleno said.

With a ferocious determination to master the world of sugar, Mr. Blanc-Tailleur left home at 15 to become an apprentice to Christophe Turgot, a pâtissier who owned a pastry shop in the seaside town of Villers-sur-Mer in Normandy. “My father resisted my plan at first, but he came around,” he said, adding, “It was very hard. I lived alone, and I worked nonstop. But Monsieur Turgot was kind and took me under his wing.”

Next, he moved to Toulouse, France, to take a job at Pillon, the city’s best known quality patisserie. “I worked all day, and then because I had the key, I’d spend hours and hours, days even, alone in the kitchen where the decorative elements of the pastries were made teaching myself and experimenting,” he said.

Mr. Blanc-Tailleur’s tenacity led him to create cakes for weddings and special events. “Creating a great wedding cake is all about making someone’s dreams real so that there can be a sort of shared communion with your spouse, your family and your guests,” Mr. Blanc-Tailleur said. “My work is to decipher the fantasies and desires of my clients and render them into a cake that will thrill them and make them proud.”

Mr. Blanc-Tailleur’s clientele encompasses French and European aristocrats, tycoons, movie stars, and fashion designers — including Dior and the Saudi and Bahraini royal families. He has also worked with American customers, most recently creating a 10-tiered mauve cake with intricate sugar wisteria blooms for the wedding of Misha Kordestani, a founder and president of Guin Records, a Los Angeles-based music conglomerate, last May in Cannes, France. He also designed a lily of the valley-bedecked wedding cake for last November’s five-day wedding extravaganza of Jacob LaGrone and Madelaine Brockway, a wealthy couple from Texas.

“Designing a wedding cake involves elements of being an architect, an art historian and a jewelry designer,” Mr. Blanc-Tailleur said. “My work is like edible haute couture because every detail matters.”

Whatever the couple’s desires, if their tastes don’t align with Mr. Blanc-Tailleur’s restrained elegance, he may not take them on as a client. “Before I accept a commission, I meet a potential client to sound them out about what it is they’re looking for and also to try and understand their aesthetics,” he said. “There are times when I’ve had to refuse a client when it’s been clear to me that our tastes are incompatible.”

This doesn’t mean, however, that he’ll refuse every far-fetched request. He recently produced a wedding cake that recreated the Duomo di Milano, a cathedral in Milan, as an intricately detailed miniature.

Mr. Blanc-Tailleur’s mediums are flour, butter, cream, and chocolate, among other ingredients, but most of all sugar. He uses pâte à sucre, an edible sugar dough made from confectioner’s sugar, egg whites and glucose, to sculpt the elegantly elaborate details of the cakes.This includes edible lace and gilded foliage, along with the fragile and astonishingly lifelike flowers that are his signature.

With a staff of seven at an atelier in suburban Paris, he assembles the flowers one petal at a time, which is why a single wedding cake can represent several months of work. Wedding cakes are usually ordered at least six months in advance, and given the huge amount of hand work in each creation, he rarely produces more than 12 cakes a year.

The starting price for a Blanc-Tailleur wedding cake is 7,500 euros, or around $8,100, while simpler celebration cakes are relatively more affordable, beginning at 3,400 euros, or roughly $3,700.

Blanc-Tailleur’s business has been awarded the label of Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivent, a prestigious French government label that designates a business that continues to perpetuate traditional French artistry.

Mr. Blanc-Tailleur said that while wedding cake trends often change, he is proud of keeping the classic art of French pastry-making alive. His greatest pleasure is when a couple discovers that their wedding cake is not only beautiful but tastes good, too.

“This is very important for me,” he said. “My cakes must taste as good as they look. “The ultimate goal of my work as a pâtissier is always to create gastronomic pleasure.”

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