By Jill Brooke
Julie Simon’s cakes are treats you eat with your eyes. Of course, the talented artist’s desserts also taste good.
But it is the visual artistry – which often requires 200 hours of work – that has earned this Los-Angeles based baker rave reviews and a rabid following.
When Kylie Jenner was celebrating her daughter Stormi’s first birthday, she hired Simon to create a whimsical carousel with antique flourishes.
Bronson Van Wyck also has her programmed into his cast of suppliers for his legendary design and event firm. One of his favorites was when Simon created a gold gateau inspired by Gustav Klimt’s famed painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer. You could just imagine Helen Mirren, who played Bloch-Bauer’s niece in the movie, “Women In Gold” wanting to come over and sample this beautiful confection.
Although she has become famous for cakes that evoke 17th-century Dutch master paintings, she is nimble at creating a variety of fantasies for any client. In all sizes. Small and large.
But inevitably a parrot tulip – her favorite – will be part of the design. “They tend to be long and wild and very dramatic,” she says. Peonies are also a perennial in her designs as are anemones.
It isn’t a surprise that Simon knows how to spin sugar as well as producing skills into her smile-inducing decorative desserts. She is the niece of singer Carly Simon and the daughter of Lucy Simon, the impresario who created the Broadway play, “The Secret Garden.”
“My mother did that at 50,” notes Julie Simon, who herself created her company at a later chapter of life after being a struggling musician and then a corporate executive.
Her aha moment came after her divorce. She realized she wanted to sift her life to the basic essence of what would bring her joy.
“I wanted to leave the corporate world behind and be fulfilled as an artist again,” she says. “This also creates happiness for people. I’ve come to find that as I’ve gotten older, your priorities shift. Seeing people really happy through something I’ve done is very satisfying. I am part of life’s celebrations.”
That’s not to say that it’s easy. Building a company from scratch echos back to her musical career in her 20’s where there were ups and downs. However, every day more people find her and she gets commissioned for new work – even at price points around $2500. Perhaps it’s also because milestone events such as weddings, birthdays and graduations are far and few between and therefore worth the extra expense. People also tend to remember the design of a cake vs. the catered chicken. Julie Simon cakes are truly works of art.
As the orders pile on, she is hoping to take some of the profits to create an apprenticeship program for other bakers. “It’s my way to give back and teach kids how to do this,” she says. Another idea is to emulate Toms Shoes, which gave a portion of profits to those in need. “It will allow me to make things for people who couldn’t buy my cakes,” she says, noting that she wants to spread the joy just like her buttercream frostings.
When asked what is a tip that wannabe bakers can use, she offers this advice. It’s not only the beauty of the design but the flavor of the cake. She suggests “lowering the temperature and bake longer for more even results throughout.”
“Another way to achieve this – especially with larger cakes – is to use cake strips,” she says. “You soak them in water and attach them to the outside of your cake pans. They keep the outside cooler so that it doesn’t get too dark before the middle of the cake is set. ”
Simon’s love of flowers clearly infuses all her designs. Some of her favorite memories are growing up in New York City and going to Central Park to see the cherry blossoms. In fact, although she lives in Los Angeles now, she loves to visit New York in the spring and she, her mother and daughter will ramble through Frederick Olmstead’s masterpiece and revel in all the flora. Of course, she visited all the museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art where paintings by the Dutch masters are plentiful.
“Seeing flowers is really fundamental to pass on generation to generation,” says Simon. Her own grandmother would take her to the New York Botanical Garden which also inspired her love of flowers.
Now in Los Angeles, the abundant flowers are constant sources of inspiration. Flowers also constantly remind us of the cycles of life.
After all, says Simon, “there’s a new phase that we go into after 50. I call it reblooming.”
Photo Credits: Deborah Jaffe Photography