Terrifying ... but tasty

Terrifying ... but tasty

Decorating cakes for Halloween is an art. YP junior reporters viewed some creepy confections


Junior reporters met celebrity cake decorators Karen Portaleo and Chiu Chun-kong.
Junior reporters met celebrity cake decorators Karen Portaleo and Chiu Chun-kong.
Photos: Alex Chan
American cake decorator Karen Portaleo - an artist and jewellery maker who has produced stunning edible designs for celebrities such as singer Elton John and actress Demi Moore - has been in Hong Kong to create three original cake sculptures for Halloween.

Last week she met Young Post junior reporters at Plaza Hollywood in Diamond Hill, Kowloon, where her cakes - one each of a zombie, witch and vampire - are on display as part of the Halloween Cake Sculptures exhibition, which runs until Monday.

The reporters also met Hong Kong food stylist Chiu Chun-kong, who also has his work on display.

Talise Tsai, Discovery College

Portaleo works as a senior cake decorator. She started this part of her career, after years as an artist and jewellery designer, "pretty much by accident", she says. "I have a degree in fine arts. I went to art school, not culinary school. I have no culinary training and work only as a decorator."

Six years ago, her friend opened a bakery in Atlanta, Georgia, where she now works. "I noticed she had no decorative items in her bakery cases, so I asked if maybe I could make a few cookies. That's how my career in cake decorating began."

She started decorating cup cakes and then larger cakes. Her first wedding cake was decorated using fondant icing. "At the time, I'd never touched fondant before, so it was my first time working with it," she says. "The cake was really tall and white, with green circles. Now when I look back on it ... it was horrible."

YP cadet Holly Siu

Portaleo is meticulous about her work. The sheer intricacy and detail in the carving and sculpting of fondant icing on her cakes is impressive; she has to really focus to carry out her work.

The longest time she has spent working on one cake sculpture was three days, when she produced a cake for the 79th birthday of Dora McDonald, who was the secretary of Martin Luther King, the murdered American civil rights leader.

Portaleo also produced a giant, 114kg octopus cake for an open day at an aquarium.

"It took two days of working straight through the night," she says.

Janet Tam, St Rose of Lima's College

I saw three huge cakes on display, decorated with tiny pumpkins. They were created by Hong Kong food stylist Chiu Chun-kong.

He is an experienced cake decorator who started his food-styling career in 1977.

His pumpkin cake is a metre tall and took him one and a half days to make.

He also produced a zombie cake, which he said was his favourite cake on display. Creating the look of the zombie, with its bones showing as it climbs up through the soil in a graveyard, was the most challenging part.

"The soil of the cake was made using almond powder and flour. I also used red icing sugar to represent the blood of the zombie," he said.

Alex Chan, La Salle College

Portaleo enjoys making sculpture cakes for special occasions, but dislikes making wedding cakes. She likes her cakes to have artistic value; one of her creations was a giant octopus which went on display in an aquarium.

She says her favourite cake-making material is modelling chocolate. She is an experienced sculptor and says the texture of modelling chocolate is very similar to that of clay.

Samantha Sugarman, South Island School

Portaleo and her assistant, Joshua Russell, have created three different spooky cakes for the shopping mall's Halloween cake competition.

She chose to make a vampire, a beautiful witch and a zombie.

She creates playful, edgy-looking cakes using special techniques of sculpting and moulding.

Halloween has allowed her to connect with her youth, when she was interested in punk music and the Gothic look - pale white faces, dark clothing, skulls and chains.



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