Mr. Darcy has long been considered one of the tastiest characters in screen history, but a British artist has now produced physical proof, immortalizing the popular Jane Austen character in cake form.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of “Pride & Prejudice,” the BBC’s popular 1995 miniseries, broadcaster UKTV commissioned cake connoisseur Michelle Wibowo to construct a life-like model of Colin Firth’s romantic hero — and he’s quite the treat.
Wibowo is a world-renowned cake artist, sugar sculptor and author whose skill derives from the combination of an architecture degree from her university in Indonesia, where she was born, and her studies at the National Baking School in London. Between 2008 and 2016, she won three gold and two silver medals at the Culinary Olympics, released a how-to book on cake sculpting and featured in season 2 of Channel 4’s “Extreme Cake Makers.”
Wibowo spent three weeks and 200 hours working on the six-foot Darcy sponge, from planning to construction, and needed 20kg of flour, 20kg of butter and 45kg of sugar to build it. On Friday, the culinary artist drove five hours from her West Sussex home to Lyme Park, in Cheshire, to unveil the final product. A fitting location as the National Trust property was used as Mr. Darcy’s Pemberley home in the BBC adaptation.
Ahead of the series’ re-broadcast, as part of Jane Austen season on TV station Drama, Wibowo caught up with Variety to talk us through exactly how she pulled off this culinary feat.
How did you get into model cake making?
I always loved art, sculpting and painting. I also loved baking with my mom when I was 9. I studied architecture but I wanted to pursue my passions, baking and art, so I combined those two together. I did a diploma in baking science and studied, mostly, how to make all sorts of bread and cakes, pastries, anything sweet. I also would sculpt with clay so I used the same technique really with cake.
An architecture degree must have been handy making this particular cake
Exactly. The benefit of studying architecture is that I learned about structure, which meant I knew how to make cakes stronger and bigger. So the big thing to consider with the Darcy cake is obviously the structure and the logistics. I had to be able to make it stand, [consider] the weight of the cake, and how we could move it around safely and survive the five-hour journey in a van.
What were you using for reference?
I got a clip from YouTube and also a few shots of Mr Darcy from online. I gathered as many pictures as I could because I’m creating a 3D figurine, not a painting, so I have to see his face from every angle. I studied away, trying to gather all the puzzle pieces together to create a 3D image in my head. I worked out what he will be wearing and after doing the initial drawing, I created the drawing to work out the structure, then a scale drawing to build from.
What part of his body did you start with?
The structure is metal. There is metal support for each layer of cake into the metal rods. I did it part by part — the legs, the body, the arms and the last piece was the head. It was really difficult to capture! I kept tweaking it for over a week. It was always changing because when I sculpt, I sit down for 10 to 15 hours before nighttime, and then the next morning, I see something’s different — something I didn’t notice — and then I keep changing it until I’m happy. But at a certain point, I have to stop!
What were you watching or listening to while making it?
I mostly listen to audiobooks, a lot of crime thrillers.
Not the complete works of Jane Austen?
No (laughs). I actually haven’t watched the series. It came out in 1995 and, back then, I hadn’t even heard about it. I was young. I have watched the Keira Knightley movie, but I’ll definitely be watching the series when it goes out next week.
Is the cake edible?
Yes, it’s Victoria Sponge with vanilla buttercream, chocolate ganache and fondant icing on the outside. I did have a bite of his shoulder, too. It was good.
So, what future cake sculptures would you like to do?
I would love to do a classic figure like the Mona Lisa. Not as a painting but as a 3D model. That would be awesome.
Jane Austen season on Drama airs in the U.K. from Sept. 6-20.