The Gemini Bake makes eye-popping edibles inspired by classic all-American cookbooks, rolling papers, and campy movies
When Sam Raye Hoecherl first searched “cannabis cake” on Google Images, she was unpleasantly surprised. “The results were pages and pages of these hideous, stereotypical ‘stoner’ cakes,” she says. “Goofy cartoon leaves with huge bloodshot eyes smoking giant fondant joints. Nothing about them is thoughtful or interesting — and worst of all, they’re perpetuating a stigma during a crucial time for long overdue legalization.” As a regular stoner and cake decorator searching for her own style, Hoecherl was inspired to subvert the tired and tacky weed-themed dessert, and actually represent the beauty of the cannabis flower.
“Cakes are often decorated with flowers and plant life – be it actual flora or those that are sculpted from buttercream and marzipan. So why not treat cannabis the same way?” Hoecherl says. Now, the Brooklyn-based cake stylist creates technicolour treats topped with fruits that echo the early-1900s ambrosia salad aesthetic, with mid-century swirls and squiggles of frosting, multicolored sugar pearls, and cannabis leaf embellishments. They’re sweets fit for a saccharine cannabis princess, taking pride of place on her Instagram The Gemini Bake.
You may also know Hoecherl from her delightful @tasteofstreep Instagram, where she combines classic images of actress Meryl Streep with food. The Gemini Bake is her dreamy dessert portfolio, where she documents her stereotype-defying weed cakes. “Nothing about my baking is gourmet or fancy by any means,” she affirms though. “(The cake itself is) a pretty standard, traditional, all-American sugary birthday cake because that’s what I grew up with. I’m trying to experiment more with recipe development – but ultimately it’s all about the decorating for me.”
Hoecherl grew up in South Florida with a mother who found joy in designing cakes for her family. “She’s completely self-taught, and a firefighter and paramedic, so baking was a hobby of hers,” says Hoecherl. “As a kid, I always loved watching her decorate the cakes in our kitchen.” As an aspiring actress living in New York in 2012, she began baking cakes for friends’ birthdays. For one such friend’s birthday in 2018, Hoecherl unsuccessfully tried to get the notorious Madonna Inn hotel to ship their iconic pink champagne cake to New York as the cherry on top of her friend’s themed birthday party. She took it upon herself to recreate the cake in all its glory, and was inspired to kickstart her confection-based career.
“Cakes are often decorated with flowers and plant life – be it actual flora or those that are sculpted from buttercream and marzipan. So why not treat cannabis the same way?”
Hoecherl says her “edible arts and crafts” are also inspired by the now-vintage Wilton Cake Decorating yearbooks that lined her childhood home shelves. “I love the look and feel of cake decorating trends from the 50s and early 90s,” she says. “Once fondant comes into the picture, that’s where I draw the line. Fondant doesn’t look like cake to me – it looks like plastic. Buttercream is just so lush and decadent, and so transformative.”
A believer that “more is more,” Hoecherl is not one to take inspiration from the modern, minimalistic cake decor trends. Instead, she finds muses in Sid and Marty Krofft, television creators and puppeteers whose variety shows and children’s programs were popular during the 70s and 80s; Jacques Demy, a French director known for campy musical films such as The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort; and classic Hollywood movie-musicals that represent the delight of colour and glitz.
Though the coronavirus pandemic has her currently out of work, Hoecherl hopes to stay in the world of food styling. She’s worked with brands such as Parade, Susan Alexandra, and Saks, and is creating cakes for weed-culture magazines. In quarantine, she continues to experiment. “I bought the tools to make these really incredible 3D flower jelly cakes about a year ago and never touched them, so I finally gave it a shot this week,” she says. “I’m not great at it yet, but I’m hoping to master it by the time quarantine is over.” We’ll take a 3D cannabis flower jelly cake over a dry, knobbly weed brownie any day.
Hoecherl ultimately hopes that her cakes take readers “somewhere dreamy, even if just for a moment.” With this in mind, she’s been posting “momentary mind vacations” on her Instagram: photos of vintage and kaleidoscopic cakes that are meant to act as respite from the current crises we’re living through. In a feed full of whimsical weed cakes, towering, baby-pink confections, and sweets that look straight out of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, she hopes to provide “the same nostalgia and comfort that it brings me.”
A note on this piece: While reflecting and exploring creative pursuits can be a good use of freer time in quarantine, it’s also an opportunity to take action for those who have been unjustly incarcerated due to marijuana possession. According to an ACLU report released today, from 2010 to 2018, law enforcement in the US made more than 6.1 million marijuana arrests. In 2018, there were almost 700,000 marijuana arrests nationwide, accounting for 43 per cent of all drug-related arrests. Though marijuana use is roughly equal among white and black people, black people are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Right now, amid the pandemic, mass incarceration is a more urgent issue than ever. Those who are incarcerated are currently at risk because they are unable to socially distance to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. If you can, donate to National Bail Out, COVID Bail Out NYC, the National Bail Fund Network, and The Bail Project. If you can’t donate, reach out to your local representatives to raise awareness for these at-risk communities.