Creator of the Month – Grace Pak

Welcome to this month’s blog feature, where we are excited to shine a spotlight on the journey of Grace “Gray” Pak. Known for her enchanting cake creations that captivate taste buds and imaginations alike, Grace’s story is one of passion, creativity, and a dash of sugar-fueled magic. Join us as we dive into the world of cake decorating and discover how Grace is creating edible art that transcends borders. Get ready to be inspired as we explore how she is reshaping the landscape of cake design, one delightful bite at a time.

Your cakes are renowned for their exquisite hand-painted designs inspired by art history. Could you share with us a bit about your background and how you initially discovered your passion for combining art and cake decorating?

I was originally trained as a fine artist with a B.F.A in Studio Art from New York University, experimenting with art forms focusing on phenomenology, the study of consciousness as part of first-hand experiences. Only later did I realize that most of my experimental work included a common theme that resurfaced years later: food as an art medium. 

After working in e-commerce at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in NY with nine years of web design experience, I decided to go back to school to get my Master of Science in Neuroscience and Education from Columbia University to better understand the artists’ mind. Upon graduating and while working in a research lab, I was struck with a difficult life-changing event when I experienced a few losses – all unrelated – in a single week. I spent a lot of that week reflecting back on my life, asking myself: “If I died tomorrow, would I be able to say I died doing something I loved today?” Sadly, the answer was “no,” and my mind shifted from thinking about happiness on a long-term basis to happiness on a day-to-day basis. But what was it that I loved doing? Almost immediately, I listed: 1) I love making things with my hands 2) I love learning new skills and 3) I love helping heighten other people’s memorable experiences, and like a call from the Cake Gods, I said, “I have to make cakes!” (which, if you knew me back then, didn’t make any sense, because I had never baked a cake before). That day, I signed up for culinary school. 

Two months later, I started my formal training in Cake Techniques & Design at the International Culinary Center (formerly the French Culinary Institute) in New York City. Graduating with the Grand Diplôme with Distinction, I have since been creating cakes that have been labeled as true works of art.

From delicate chinoiserie motifs to intricate Rococo-inspired paintings, your designs showcase a wide range of artistic styles. How do you decide which historical art era to draw inspiration from for each cake?

While each historical art movement has differences in terms of style, medium (what was available, what was new, what was popular), message (how art conveys current events), and content, I am mostly drawn to the more intricate styles of art. This means I prefer Neoclassicism over Pop Art, Art Nouveau over Bauhaus, complex over simple. I love looking at a specific piece and asking myself, “how can I recreate this with edible medium?” The “harder” the better and the more things there are to visualize or paint, the better. I’m always up for a good challenge, and I’ve found that my favorite cakes are always the ones that challenged me the most. 

Being featured on national television shows like Buddy vs Duff and receiving prestigious awards such as the New York Wedding Awards Manhattan Cake Designer of the Year are remarkable achievements. Can you tell us about one memorable moment or experience that stands out to you from your journey as a cake artist?

One loosely defined moment is my experience filming a Cake Painting course for Domestika, the leading online educational platform for creatives. I was invited to film the course in Madrid, Spain (where Domestika is based), and met some of the most remarkable, passionate people to work with. Being a huge proponent of sharing knowledge to help inspire, encourage, and positively impact others, I have been able to share my experience and expertise through the course to almost create a chain reaction for others to do the same. I love asking the question, “how many smiles?” as in, how many smiles did I help create? Reading the course reviews by so many passionate learners and thinking that they will each go on to create so many smiles for others is one of the most rewarding experiences as a cake artist. 

Your company, Duchess of Cameron, has had the honor of working with high-profile clients like Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., and Martha Stewart, among others. What is your approach to collaborating with such esteemed brands and individuals, and how do you ensure that your cakes reflect their unique identities?

Having an art and science background, research has always been the foundation of any project initiation. With my fine art cakes, I start by spending days (sometimes weeks) conducting a thorough research on specific topics or art history eras. Similarly, working with brands, I always start with a research behind the brand which can include the brand’s history, style, demographics (who they’re tailoring too), and the intangible sense of what the brand wants to convey. Another important factor I always consider is what emotions and experience the cakes should evoke and provide. Truly understanding the client, whether it be a couple getting married or a luxury brand, naturally guides the design of the cake. 

Seeing your intricate works of art being enjoyed and consumed at special events must be incredibly rewarding. Could you share a particularly touching “favorite cake story” of how one of your creations made an impact on a client or event?

Seeing my work being enjoyed and consumed at special events is always rewarding and exciting, but one particular small non-event experience always stands out in my memory. About six years ago, I was co-leading a Creative Arts Expression session through a nonprofit organization working with survivors of human trafficking, domestic, and sexual abuse, and introduced the idea of using cupcake and cake decorating as a medium for art therapy. Through the program, participants decorated cupcakes using various techniques acquired during the session, and at the end, were invited to share their design and their experience if they wanted. During one parent-child session, a mom who had beautifully decorated her cupcake with fondant butterflies raised her hand and shared that her design signified her newly found freedom. Something so small and simple proved to be incredibly profound and touching, and the fact that cake decorating could impact someone on a spiritual level truly gave me a pause. This experience also allowed me to further appreciate the fact that I’ve had the opportunity to make this my career.  

Your favorite part of the cake-making process is seeing your creations being enjoyed and ultimately consumed. How do you emotionally prepare yourself to witness the destruction of your painstakingly crafted works of art?

There’s absolutely no preparation needed as I long for it! The moment they cut into the cake and take the first bite is SO exciting for me. As an artist whose main interest is in phenomenology and multisensory experiences, it is extra exciting to be able to trigger that cognitive process in the “audience” who partakes in the edible art form and for me to actually witness it. Stimulating multiple senses heightens the experience, so eating an “art-cake” is in itself a heightened experience with sight, touch, smell, and taste triggered. Cake is also a rare form of art in that the artwork literally becomes a part of the body of the beholder and that can’t be said for most art forms. 

Do you have a mentor in the business and if so, how has that individual inspired you on your incredible journey to success?

In my freshman Studio Art class at NYU, we had to read a book by neurologist Oliver Sacks, “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: And Other Clinical Tales.” It was a book that really had nothing to do with art and belonged more in a psychology or neuroscience class, but the book opened my eyes on the topic of perception and inspired me to approach art in a different way. I wouldn’t call him a business mentor, but more of an artist mentor: our professor at the time, Jesse Bransford, was the one who assigned this reading and it really piqued my interest in interdisciplinary studies. Jesse’s class and his approach to art trained me to think differently as an artist and led me to focus on closing the gap between art and science in an unconventional way. 

As a successful entrepreneur and artist, what advice would you give to aspiring cake designers who are just starting out in their artistic career?

Find your niche and differentiate. Especially with social media, a place for visual overload feeding you nonstop trends based on the algorithm, it’s not hard to see the same things over and over. Stand out and don’t become just one of many.

Do you have a signature quote that guides your daily life?

I make sure to have fun on a daily basis, and that could mean anything like taking the wrong turn to explore a new area, training to jump on a horse, or putting on an impromptu puppet show (made of cake) for my dog. Life is too short and the world is already too serious, so I love filling my free time with adventures, humor, and spontaneous fun. It keeps life interesting and full, and I advise everyone to do the same! 



Related Post

Creator of the Month – Inspiration Co

Creator of the Month – Inspiration Co

This month we have the honor of featuring the founders of The Inspiration Co, read on to learn more about…
Creator of the Month - Kristen Hechler

Creator of the Month - Kristen Hechler

We are thrilled to shine a spotlight on the incredibly talented Kristen Hechler, our Creator of the Month. Hailing from…
Creator of the Month- Jessica Hannum

Creator of the Month- Jessica Hannum

This month, we had the honor of engaging in a captivating conversation with Jessica Hannum from Winter Park, Florida. Her…