Long before ice cream museums and Instagrammable candyland pop-ups, the artist Scott Hove has been making delicious large-scale art installations that look just like cake. In July, Hove finally opened his dream project, Cakeland, in Los Angeles’ Chinatown neighborhood. The fully immersive installation is a sweet funhouse of intricately piped marzipan, frosting, confections, jewels, and doll parts that delights the senses as well as sends a chill down your spine.
“I’ve always been into traditional decorative techniques,” Hove explained, “and I found that cake decorating was applicable in fine arts. When I did pieces with this type of decoration, it really connected with people’s nostalgia and happiness.”
But Hove is also fascinated by the contrast between light and dark, good and evil. Sometimes his cheerful cakes congratulate dictators or take the shape of a semi-automatic rifle. “And at the time I was trying to digest the reality of these groups in the world that would go out and ruthlessly kill innocent people. My way to deal with it was through humor and making fun of it.”
Cakeland’s first installation, “The Beauty War,” continues to explore dualities and contradictions. At first glance, the pink and white wonderland looks heavenly, but hiding behind curtains, hidden coves, and cracks in the ceiling, dark machinations convey the sacrifices that make the world beautiful. Whether you want to build an entire environment or just decorate a single object, Hove helped us break down the steps to build one of his cake-like creations, from the base-layer to the frosting.
1. A Readymade Base
For his smaller pieces, Hove often works with objects he discovers online or unearths at thrift stores. He has transformed other objects like platform stiletto heels, prosthetic legs, and coin-operated ponies into cake-ified menageries. Because the item will be completely covered in paint, small details don’t matter at this sage. “It’s just as easy for me to go out and get a cheap airsoft weapon as it is to take a cast of an Uzi and make it out of poly resin. So this is, it’s just a really quick way of getting the same result.“
2. Acrylic Frosting
Hove uses water-based acrylic paint to add thick layers of faux frosting to his objects. He mixes his colors himself, searching for right shades of sugary pink or chocolatey brown that look cheerful and realistic.
After the object is fully covered and dry — it may take multiple rounds of applying paint to get the thick texture desired, which requires patience — Hove puts his acrylic paint into the same tools bakers use, like a piping bag, to apply rich layers of frosting. “I do my own take on canvas scrolls, Dead Sea scrolls, and design motifs that have been around for thousands of years,” he said.
To make it easier to apply the frosting without accidentally getting a palm full of paint, Hove uses a revolving cake stand to simply rotate the object and approach the piping at the right angle — much like an actual baker.
Before your frosting completely dries, add some bling to your cake. Hove embellished his pieces with rhinestones or real Swarovski crystals, as well as the kind of fake fruit — plump cherries or sugar-trimmed orange slices — often seen in restaurant displays. It’s impossible to go overboard.
If you’re going big like Cakeland, people won’t be able to resist touching the decadent sculptures. For the larger pieces, which mostly use plywood as a base, Hove begins with a primer before mixing his frosting layer. Though smaller objects may use the wet acrylic, Hove uses an enamel acrylic, the same paint used in houses, to endure the wear and tear. The enamel paint is also easy to clean, and can easily be touched up when it gets scratched or chipped. Even before COVID-19, Hove always had his guests wear gloves when they walk though his installations to avoid fingerprints or other stains. While enticing, the cake is quite fragile.