Before anyone asks — no, this story is not a cake.
Last week, a viral trend of videos of hyper-realistic cakes made to look like other food or household items left many with trust issues, but one Austin woman has made a living off these illusions for years.
On July 9, Natalie Sideserf posted a video montage of what appeared to be eggplants, onions and chicken sandwiches on Twitter. She cut into them, revealing they were in fact cake. The video got 17 million views and helped spurn memes across the internet, where users joked about everything being made of cake.
Natalie is an Austin-based cake decorator known for her realistic cake designs. She graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in fine arts in 2008, and after only creating art with traditional art materials, she didn’t imagine herself going into cake making until she sculpted her first cake: a cow skull for a friend’s birthday.
“I had never used cake before,” Natalie said. “I had always used traditional art media. I gave it a shot and I realized that it was really fun, and there was a lot more that I could do with cake than I realized.”
Natalie moved to Austin in 2011 and worked for a bakery. The following year, she entered a bust cake of Willie Nelson into a local cake baking competition. Her brother put a photo of the cake on Reddit, and after it went viral, she opened Sideserf Cake Studio, an appointment-only bakery, with her husband, Dave Sideserf.
In 2016, Dave left his job as director of a tech company to join Natalie full time. He now bakes, runs their social media and edits videos for their YouTube channel, where they post cake-making tutorials.
Dave said the transition from tech to cake wasn’t a difficult one because he already “knew his way around an oven” after working in kitchens in college. Now, he enjoys choosing cake flavor combinations.
“For example, like a lemon cake,” Dave said. “It looks like a lemon and inside the cake flavor is lemon.”
“And then sometimes we switch it up completely and we’re like, ‘This peach is going to be chocolate,’” Natalie said.
The couple also offers classes at their cake studio, where students of all ages and experience levels can learn to make realistic cakes, though they paused the classes due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
In addition to creating cakes and teaching others, Natalie said she’s been on several TV shows, including as a guest judge on season three of “Nailed It!” and as a competitor on Food Network’s “Buddy vs. Duff.”
So far, Natalie said two of the more difficult cakes they’ve made have been a cake that looks like Freddy Krueger and a hanging deer head.
Her next challenge is a cake version of herself, which she said was inspired by people on social media commenting “Are you a cake?” on her selfies.
“I’m calling it a selfie cake, and I think it will be fun because I can hold it next to myself and I’m really comparing,” Natalie said. “So, talk about a challenge.”