Let Them Eat Cake
The guest list included Kanye West and Jay-Z, and the location was New York City’s 40/40 club. But what really left Aaron Reid (son of music producer LA Reid) in awe at his 16th-birthday party last month was when the baker brought out the cake—a 5-ft.-tall replica of the birthday boy. “I was amazed that he actually made it look like me,” Reid says. “It was really hot.”
Score another frosted victory for Raven Dennis—a.k.a. “Cake Man.” For Mary J. Blige’s birthday in 2003, he placed a life-size “baby” atop her cake (symbolizing the rebirth of her music), and for a 50 Cent bash, Dennis molded two 3-ft.-high motorcycles, inspired by bikes the rapper owns. “He’s amazing,” says Patti LaBelle, whose 60th-birthday cake was a 5-ft. piano. “Cake Man’s designs are delicious works of art.”
Often, his confections amount to edible architecture. When Dennis, 38, was asked to whip up a 1,300-lb. model of the Columbia University library (one slice of which had 840 calories), “it took four months to plan,” says Dennis, who drew up blueprints before pulling out his baking pans. To re-create the Brooklyn Bridge in frosting for its 120th birthday, Dennis and his crew spent five days assembling, and 22 consecutive hours decorating, the 7-ft.-tall monument, so that the ingredients would taste as fresh as possible. “No matter how big a cake is,” he says, “it’s got to be edible.”
Dennis learned baking from his late grandmother Evelyn Murrelle, who helped raise him in Lynchburg, S.C. Together, they perfected recipes for many cake flavors—including red velvet, which has since become his signature—and by 13, he was selling his own homemade desserts. “Classmates teased me,” he recalls. “But by high school, the football team would buy [my] cakes for their sweethearts and moms.”
By 1989 Dennis had settled in New York City, where he began selling red velvet cake out of his apartment, earning his first celebrity customer: Lena Horne, who ordered one for her 75th birthday. In 2000 he opened the Cake Man Raven Confectionary in Brooklyn.
Since then, Dennis’s high-profile clients have challenged him to outdo himself. One recent request: a 15-tier wedding cake housing live caged doves. Can any man—even Cake Man—mix fowl and frosting? “As long as it’s cake,” Dennis vows, “I’m gonna try it.”
Ericka Sóuter. Katy Hall in New York City