Burlesque baking: the art of high teas(e)

Date:30-01-2014 08:58:24 read:1

Burlesque baking: the art of high teas(e)

Baker Charlotte White's spectacular cakes have an unusual story behind them - they are inspired by the decadent world of burlesque

All that glitters: Charlotte White's Dita Von Teese cake is just one of many burlesque-inspired creations 

Burlesque and baking don’t really seem natural bedfellows. The first conjures up images of glamour, glitter and women wearing more red lipstick than clothing. The second evokes cosy domesticity, figure-swamping aprons and Mary Berry pulling a face at a burnt Victoria sponge.

Baker Charlotte White, however, has never been one for boring old Victoria sponges. The cakes she produces at her cake company, Restoration Cake, are gloriously over-the-top creations, and her new book, Burlesque Baking, ramps up the wow factor even further by taking inspiration from the decadent world of burlesque.

Where did the idea come from? “I absolutely love burlesque and I love cake decorating,” explains Charlotte, who worked as an executive PA before she decided to become a full-time baker. "My personal style of cake decorating is influenced by vintage eras, with an emphasis on the opulent. Burlesque is essentially retro glamour turned up to eleven – so this combination felt very natural.”

Each of the cakes in White’s book is based on a burlesque performer, with the inspiration mainly drawn from their most iconic costumes. “Funnily enough," she says, "this is exactly the same process as I go through when designing bespoke wedding cakes, though I'm usually working with a wedding gown rather than a corset." Thus the intricate Dita Von Teese cake, a tribute to the world's most famous contemporary burlesque star, was inspired by the intricate costume Von Teese wears in a number where she emerges from a giant powder compact. Other cakes play on names or routines: the Sally Rand cakes are decorated with a delicate feather fan motif, in a nod to the strategically positioned fans the star infamously used to protect her modesty while shimmying around on stage in the 1930s and 40s.

Dita Von Teese's "power puff compact" routine, which inspired the cake in her name (REX)

Writing the book took as much research in the library as in the kitchen. White says she buried herself in burlesque history, and frequented events such the London Burlesque Festival to try and find eye-catching performers to include. She had to contact each star to ask their permission, but luckily every one gave her the green light. One performer, she recalls with amusement, "got all misty-eyed. She said, 'I've always wanted to be a cake!'"

Burlesque has had a renaissance in recent years, spurred by a revival of interest in all things retro. Fans call it sexually empowering and an art form: critics say it's demeaning. White knows firmly where she stands. “Burlesque is the most wonderful celebration of women and their beauty. It sounds daft to say it is not stripping, when clothes are quite obviously removed, but the excitement comes from the tease, rather than the final reveal,” she says. “I have never met a performer who gets on the stage for any other reason than the sheer joy of performing to a cheering crowd, and that joy is infectious.”

Baker baker: Charlotte White

White’s joy in burlesque is evident in her recipes. Some of them are easier than others – many require advanced decorating skills, and plenty of patience is required when it comes to sticking on the tiny gems or piping intricate patterns – but the finished bakes are always eye-catching. Mary Berry would probably give them full marks. Just as long as you didn’t tell her where the inspiration came from.

Burlesque Baking recipes

Burlesque baking: Cherry Shakewell Cake

Burlesque baking: Sally Rand cupcakes

Burlesque baking: Dita Von Teese cake

Burlesque Baking by Charlotte White is published on February 13 by Ryland Peters & Small and is available from

    Ever For Health Copy Rights 2013