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These French Desserts Are Made of Glass and Clay

The artist had food allergies and a “Great British Baking Show” obsession.

<em>Millefeuille</em>
Millefeuille All photos courtesy of Shayna Leib, photographer Eric Tadsen

Most pastries don’t last longer than a day. Uneaten mousse sags and cake goes stale. But the desserts made by artist Shayna Leib will last forever, unless they’re dropped and shatter.

Leib’s Pâtisserie series consists of 84 realistic statuettes of French desserts. From millefeuilles to macaroons, Leib uses glistening glass and whimsical ceramic to devise delicious-looking dessert doppelgangers.

<em>Forêt noire</em>
Forêt noire

In 2016, Leib was watching The Great British Baking Show, known in its home country as The Great British Bake-Off. The episode had contestants baking entremets, a single-serving French desserts made with an eye to beautiful design. Leib, a glass and metal artist, was entranced by the beautiful pastries.

<em>Mont Blanc</em>
Mont Blanc

But unlike many fans of the show, Leib couldn’t raid her kitchen for cake after each episode. She had food allergies. So creating the many entremets of Pâtisserie became a type of therapy. Instead of looking at pastries with hunger and jealousy, she can instead imagine how to recreate them.

“I get to make these desserts, but I can’t eat them,” she says. “And for that matter, nobody else can, either.”

<em>Noisette au caramel</em>
Noisette au caramel

Since Leib started work on Pâtisserie in 2016, she’s finished two waves of mouthwatering desserts. Her primary medium is glassblowing, so the first set depicts colorful tropical mousses and mirror glazes with eerie accuracy. Fruit decorations like raspberries and mango chunks have an otherworldly perfection. More research was required for the ceramic-based second series. Clay doesn’t really act like frosting, and, Leib says, the bready look was especially hard to capture. But she managed to create classical French pastries: Choux puffs look like they’d crackle if you bit into one, while the iced Mont Blanc cake stands high, like the snowy mountain it’s named after.

<em>The Bourgi</em>
The Bourgi

For most of her desserts, Leib mixes and matches color schemes and shapes from desserts she’s seen. But two statuettes take directly after real-life treats. The “Bourgi” and the “Ostapchuk” are modeled after desserts by famed pastry chefs Karim Bourgi and Lida Ostapchuk. Pâtisserie preserves their beautiful dessert designs, while showing off Leib’s skills. After all, few artists could make glass and clay look so delicious.

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