When you think about it, the poop emoji is the perfect way to decorate a cupcake. It’s already shaped like a mound of brown . . . frosting. All you need to add are some eyes and a mouth — and a good sense of humor. That’s what led cake designer Jenni Powell to write her cookbook “Cakemoji,” a guide to recreating your favorite text message icons in baked goods. The 27-year-old founded Two Little Cats Bakery in Cambridge, England, where she bakes whimsical cakes in the shape of robots and kidneys — and some traditional ones, too.
We chatted with Powell via email, so that she could pepper her answers with her favorite ingredient: Emoji.
Powell doesn’t come from a traditional culinary background. “I had no idea what I wanted to do after [graduating from the University of Cambridge] and started baking for [my boyfriend] Chris and our families here and in Wales. 🍩🍰🍪 They all seemed to really love what I was making so I started playing around with flavors and coming up with own my recipes. After a brief stint in the corporate world followed by a nasty car accident 💥🚗 I decided to go for it and become a cake designer full time! Two Little Cats Bakery was born on Halloween 2013 👻🎃 and we haven’t looked back since! We always get asked about the name — it’s named after my two cats, Nacho & Simba 🐱🐱 , a Christmas present from Chris when I was first toying with the idea of a cake business. 😍”
Her favorite cake she’s ever made was in the shape of a kidney. “It was to celebrate the one-year anniversary of a young woman who successfully donated her kidney to her uncle. To be asked to create something to celebrate such an amazing act — that’s a pretty cool thing! 😻💕”
But much of her business is wedding cakes. “We’re making a giant 😍 emoji cake for a wedding in 2017 — we can’t wait!”
The first Cakemoji she ever made was the 💩. “I just thought it was a really cute emoji — simple, fun, and cheeky without being crass. When the publishers contacted us saying they had an idea for a book about emoji that would suit us perfectly we were so excited and immediately sent off the pictures of our 💩 cupcakes! . . . Everyone has to embrace a bit of silliness once in a while. 😜 (Have you ever tried to make that face in real life by the way?! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone pull that face but I’m rather fond of it now!)”
They’re also easy for inexperienced bakers to make. “The poop cupcakes are one of the simplest projects in the book 💩 and from start to finish only take an hour or two (including baking and cooling!) . . . They’re so simple to make and to achieve a finish that looks exactly like the emoji which definitely gives them appeal to beginners.”
Other cakes are, well, advanced. “I wouldn’t say any of the projects are particularly difficult, but some of the techniques do require a bit of practice — the iced biscuits, for example. That said, there are ways to simplify each of the projects to suit different ages and skill levels. . . . The 💣 cake truffles have quite a few steps that require chilling or setting in between. Likewise, some of the larger cakes such as the unicorn, robot, and the cat 🐱 & dog 🐶 have quite a few steps to them. The steps themselves aren’t tricky though, and the end results are really effective. ☺️”
Don’t get frustrated by the difficulty level. “Cakes are made for eating and enjoying. So even if the finished cake doesn’t look identical to the emoji or the picture in the book — if you’ve had fun making it, and have fun sharing it and eating it — you’ve made an awesome cake. 🍰 😋 ”
The emoji she thinks best represent the book: “🍰 🌈 💩 😻 They represent cake (obviously!) fun & happiness, color, cheekiness (and the emoji that started my Cakemoji love affair).”
Any emoji can become a cakemoji. “I love working with the faces and animals as they’re so iconic. . . . I’d say no emoji were impossible to recreate in cake, but in terms of the finished design some obviously lend themselves better than others — especially when you start to get into the ‘symbol’ category. I’m not sure how exciting a Cakemoji of 🔴 or ✔️ would be for example! We tried to select emoji that were bright, colorful, and instantly recognizable as the emoji (not the object the emoji represents).”
It was tough to pick which emoji she would include. “The hard part was narrowing them down! We tried to pick emoji that would be received well across a broad demographic, as well as internationally — what’s popular in the U.K. might never get used in another country, so we were conscious to get a good balance. 🌏 ”
And her recipes depended on Unicode’s timing. “I was desperate to include a unicorn, but when we were talking about the book there was no unicorn emoji yet — just a rumor one was coming. We kept our fingers crossed throughout the planning stages and I remember getting the update a couple of days before shooting began. Even though it was the last one to be designed I think it is my favourite — it just sums up our style in a cake! 💖 ”
She’s really looking forward to the next release. “My best friend, Amber, is avocado *obsessed* 😳 As with the unicorn last year there’s rumors flying around that an avocado emoji will be released soon so I’ll make her a Cakemoji based on that! 👯”
But she doesn’t think emoji will be the “death of written language.” “Language — spoken and written — is a constantly evolving thing, often used in conjunction with other forms of communication like body language and facial expressions 😘😳😠😔😢. That’s how I see emoji. As a way to punctuate your written communication with more expression.”