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Let Them Eat Cake: Flora Aghababyan Channels Marie Antoinette and More

Flora Aghababyan as Marie Antoinette
Flora Aghababyan as Marie Antoinette
Photo: Alex Karvounis

On her 10th anniversary as a cake artist Wynn Las Vegas, pastry empress Flora Aghababyan put together a decadent cake for Bastille Day celebrating Marie Antoinette and even dressed up as the French royal to mark the day. Here, she reflects on her sweet masterpieces, her competitive edge and all those crazy cake folks that we see on TV.

You’ve been creating some of the most amazing showpiece cakes in Las Vegas for over a decade now. Which stand out as your favorites?
A cake celebrating Beyonce’s “I Am Yours” American tour that was shaped like the United States;  an elaborate chocolate cake for Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony; and a replica of the White House for the Mitt Romney campaign. But the one I remember most was a divorce cake I made for the model/actress Shanna Moekler, with a solitary bride at the top and a groom crumpled on the bottom, representing his fall from grace. 

What sets your cakes apart from so many of the others?
We create anywhere from 80 to 100 cakes each week, with many of them requiring intricate pulled sugar or fondant sculpting.  I think what truly sets us apart, aside from using the highest quality ingredients available, is that we work from very tough, punishing deadlines. By that I mean we do not make a cake for an event on Saturday on the Monday prior. We make that cake on Saturday. You simply cannot replicate the experience of a freshly made cake. Our guiding principal is always, always, the cake must taste as beautiful as it looks.

Do you watch all of those reality cake and cupcake competition shows on TV?
I try not to. They tend to make me nervous because I know exactly what they are going through. It’s not easy to create cakes that are artistic expressions, let alone to have to do it in a very small timeframe.

You’ve competed twice now on Food Network Challenge, and you even walked off with the top award. What was that experience like?
Terrifying! My team was so supportive and kept telling me that my design would win, but when the big moment came I was literally in shock. I just stood there asking myself, “Is this really happening to me?” It was a very out-of-body experience, but something I will never forget. Challenge judge Kerry Vincent, who many people think is a very tough cookie, has truly become a mentor to me.

What has been the sweetest moment for you so far?
That has to be when I won the grand prize in the Oklahoma State Sugar Art show, a national competition that really is about the best of the best. My cake, an interpretation of the Ettal Abbey, a landmark Benedictine monastry in Bavaria, Germany, took me five weeks to complete and came in first in a field of 70 world-famous cake artists. It was a defining moment for me.
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