Chatting With Michelle DuQuesnay Part Two: Designer Purse Cakes and the Joy of Chocolate Phalluses
In Part One of our interview, baker and cake designer Michelle DuQuesnay talked to us about the erotic cake portion of her business, Sugar Mama NYC, and the odd requests and inherently humorous situations that go along with immortalizing genitalia in fondant. In Part Two, DuQuesnay tells us about withholding judgment of her clients, why she wishes designer purse cakes would go away, and the joy of chocolate phalluses.
Because you're working with them on an inherently intimate creation, does that affect your relationship with a client in a way that a children's birthday cake would not?
Not necessarily. I think sometimes clients feel that way. I think they feel a little closer to me because they've said the word "penis" to me, but to me it's another cake. I treat all the cakes the same. I don't judge. I won't think of you in a different way if you order a cake with two people having sex on it. It's just cake.
Is there anything that's really hard to make?
Just anything with a lot of detail. It's just time-oriented. Anything that has to stand up, you don't want it to only stand up in the studio. You want to make sure it will hold up well wherever it's going. It's a matter of getting it in the box, getting it into somebody's car, into the venue, and out of the box. There are a lot of things you have to take into consideration. Bigger cakes are more difficult; you have to make sure they're structurally sound.
What's a typical day like for you?
I'm a pretty small operation: It's just me and an assistant and a kitchen assistant who works part-time. I probably do an average of five cakes a week. During the summer it's a little slower, but that's totally fine with me. Delivering cakes in the hot sun is not fun. The busiest times for us are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, when we're decorating and getting everything ready for the weekend. We're closed on Sundays. I wish we could bake [the cakes] two weeks in advance, but unfortunately it's like two hours.
Do you eat a lot of cake?
I nibble, but I'm not a huge cake person. I can't even remember if I ever was. I know I liked cake -- strawberry shortcake is my favorite. ... That's the other thing about cake, too: My website is called Sugar Mama Treats because I want to stress it's not an everyday food. It's a treat you treat yourself to, a sometimes food. It's not like Sugar Mama Staple of Your Diet.
Are adult cakes a big part of your business?
Not really. It's actually a very small portion, but it's getting slightly larger because the amount of bakeries that do them are becoming scarce.
I have no idea. There was a company called Masterbakers that recently closed. I got a lot more calls than usual after that. And there are also some bakeries that flat-out won't do it. Are there any trends you're sick of?
Cakes in the shape of designer purses. I do like one a week. Sometimes I'll have three in the same week: Juicy Couture, Louis Vuitton. It's like, come on! I would not even mind a purse cake if somebody said, "My favorite color is this," but no, it's like, "Here's a Vuitton purse, make that."
Do you ever try to talk your clients out of them?
I do, actually. I say, "Why don't we do this instead?" Somebody once said to me that it's copyright infringement, and that Louis Vuitton is going to sue me. But I think they've got their hands full with the guys on Canal Street.
At least with adult cakes, you're always doing something different and original.
Oh, definitely. They're always fun to make. You never have a frown on your face making a giant chocolate phallus.
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