Modern graphics have been applied left, right, and center—to posters, textiles, t-shirts, and more—but at a new business in Los Angeles (with an architect as a cofounder) has affixed them to a new medium: baked goods.
Earlier this year, life and business partners Daniel Shapiro and Greg Roth launched Modern Bite, a bakery that creates cakes, cupcakes, and cookies topped with modern designs and then sells them online (as well as once at a pop-up shop). The company relies on Shapiro's baking experience and expertise and Roth's eye for aesthetics. Roth holds a masters in architecture from SCI-Arc and practiced with Frank Gehry Associates, Kerry Joyce Associates, and Audrey Alberts Design before launching Gregory Roth Design in 2001, where he works on interiors and graphic designs.
We munched on a box of the cookies at the office (general consensus: tasty but a little weird cause you could peel off the printed graphic if you chose), and then spoke with Roth about his and Shapiro's venture into the world of food.
What made you want to launch a bakery?
Daniel has always been passionate about baking; he had a business baking for a local cafe in Montreal when he was 14 years old. He spent 20 years in corporate American doing advertising, licensing, and marketing, and when that came to an end he decided to look into baking and dessert-making as a profession. It was something we'd talked about for a long time. We'd been making cakes for friends and kids' birthdays in a casual and fun but also intense way; we took it very seriously even though it was often just for kids and we weren't being paid. We did a cake for my sister-in-law's birthday and the response was amazing. We realized we were on to something interesting: Daniel can bake amazing cakes with flavors that floor people and if we add design to the mix, so to speak, it just increases the wow factor.
Had you worked in the food industry before?
We'd been making cakes for a long time, and I'd designed a few restaurants. It's absolutely an extension of my business, though. I've been doing mostly interior design for the last eight years. The segue from architecture to interior design was a huge learning curve for me in terms of textiles, patterns, and colors. Bringing that to bear in this new realm is an extension of my aesthetic and my design point of view.
How do you decide what each cake and cookie should look like?
We wanted them to be unique and different than what you'd normally see. I've always been interested in color. When I was in graduate school, I spent a semester in Japan, where color is very integral to design and has a lot to do with seasons, food, and food presentation. In architecture school, building models are meant to be presented in all-white so you can look at the form of the design and not be distracted by details like color. That works, but it doesn't take it to the next level. Color can help define a space and shapes; it can create foreground, midground, and background. For me, it's crucially important, and for the cakes, it adds a dimension and complexity to the surface that hasn't been done before. I look at the designs as textiles in the way that they can fold around the sides and over the tops of cakes.
What challenges does the baked goods medium present?
I design all of the patterns and designs on the computer in AutoCAD, PhotoShop, and Illustrator. We almost always use fondant for the cakes so the first challenge is figuring out how to make the right colors. Magentas are very hard to make; I don't know why but generally speaking reds are difficult colors. In the computer, you're able to get concise and clean lines but fondant doesn't let you do that. I create my own cutters for the patterns, but cutting the fondant in those shapes and transferring them from the cutting board to the cake can be challenging.
How about the cookies?
They're a bit easier in that we're printing the design from the computer with edible ink onto edible paper and then attaching them to the cookies with icing. Printing can be tricky, however, because the colors don't always print exactly as they appear on the screen.
We have the fall-winter holiday patterns done, and they'll go up on the website in a few weeks. I'm working on some Halloween design, and then after the holidays it'll be Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and Easter.
There aren't any pop-up shops planned for the near future but the duo is always up for new opportunities. In the meantime, check out Shapiro and Roth's creations and place orders at modernbite.com.