When is pizza not pizza? When it’s cake of course! Welcome to the world of illusion food – or culinary trompe l’oeil, if you will – where everything looks delicious, but all is not as it seems…
You may have seen these marvellous creations on shows like Bake Off or been lucky enough to sample something surprising. But if you’ve ever wanted to have a go or simply find out how it’s done, read on for our mini master class in food trickery.
Trick and treat
Whether sweet treats made with savoury ingredients or desserts made to look like mains, the trick is to deceive the diner with hyper-realistic results. High end chefs are doing it and, naturally, it’s all over TikTok but it’s also very doable at home.
The good news is you don’t always need fancy tools or a degree in fine art to make illusion food. While we can only marvel at some of these masterpieces, there are plenty of brilliant recipes suitable for kids and big kids alike to try. Let’s get wowing.
Have your fake an eat it
Some of the best examples of fabulous food fakery have to be cakes. Picture your guests’ faces when you offer up sponge cake and serve this dish sponge number with a mug illusion cake on the side. Priceless.
For more illusion cakes, check out queen of hyperreal baking Chidinma Chiejina and her YouTube channel Create with Chidex where she’ll let you in on how she makes her insane creations.
Remember that pizza cake we mentioned earlier? ‘Course you do. Here’s a brilliant recipe that promises jaw dropping results, liquorice olives and wine gummy green peppers included. It’s way more time consuming than real homemade pizza but if you’re looking to impress, it’s totally worth it.
This fresh fruit sushi is perfect for those who love the look of the real thing but are less keen on the raw fish and seaweed. Cute, delicious and so much fun to create.
Disguising savoury ingredients as desserts requires a bit more thought (and can be harder to stomach – meat cake anyone?) but there are some tasty options if you want to give this a go.
Up the steaks with this vegetarian beetroot tartare, it’s all kinds of convincing. Topped with a fake raw egg yolk and edible flowers, it’s so realistic it should come with a warning.
Feeling robbed by the ice cream chicken nuggets? Try it in reverse with these chicken nugget popsicles. You guessed it; real chicken nuggets made to look like popsicles. Balance restored.
Want to give this kitchen sorcery a go? Start with something simple like this brilliant chocolate salame (FYI salame is the singular form of salami – yep, we didn’t know either). It’s the perfect piece of illusion food for the festive table so go make some food magic happen.