She Takes the Cake

By / Photography By Brian Kelley | August 25, 2017
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At the intersection of art and food, you’ll find Tessa Pinner’s cakes. Not only exquisitely decorated and a pleasure to behold, but beneath the buttercream lies a culinary treasure trove of taste. 

Pinner studied fine art in school, taking on ceramics, sculpture, painting, and printmaking on her journey to creating a business to support herself. While struggling with which direction to pursue, it dawned on her that all those endeavors needed massive amounts of heavy machinery. The oven beckoned. 

“I changed my paradigm to use food as a medium for my art after seeing the work of baker Maggie Austin of Washington, DC, whose cakes have graced the tables of many Hollywood celebrities. After that, I found that I could apply all my artistic skills and actually turn cake baking into a business, not just a hobby.” 

Three years later, with dozens of clients, the self-taught foodie features designs from beautifully simple to intricate and extraordinary, once even replicating a Mexican textile on a cake. When the spatula swerves and curves under her swift movements, frosting is transformed—twisted, folded and molded into sculpture.

“My flavors are more redolent of a ‘composed dessert’ encompassing tart, bitter, sweet, or smoky flavors,” says Pinner. “I strive for a balanced, more complex and interesting taste experience.” A surprise hit is her chai cake with a mixed berry filling enveloped in vanilla bean buttercream, and a perennial favorite is her strawberry cake layered with lemon curd and frosted with elderflower Swiss meringue. 

The Greenville native originally thought she would leave the city, but she’s thankful to still be here.  “It’s a great place to start a business with our entrepreneurial community, and there’s some great collaborations happening,” she notes. Pinner’s future plans might include developing a small wholesale business providing goods to select retailers in town. And with her commitment to quality, that would be a win-win for Greenville. “Since I’m very concerned with sustainable practices, I use locally sourced, top quality natural ingredients and natural food colors,” explains Pinner. “It’s important that I provide a wholesome and tasty product, so when people eat cake, I want to feel good about selling it.”

She considers her work “edible art,” acknowledging that it will be gone in minutes. “I’ve made peace with the idea that this is an ephemeral experience.” However, fans that follow her gorgeous Instagram (@tessapinner) see it all in perpetuity. Clients say it’s worth every bite. 

Instagram: @tessapinner

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