We brought to together some of Marin’s best cooks, caters and bakers to attempt something truly creative with a festive feast — and the results were something else. See if you can figure out what these tasty treats are actually made of!
Michelle Heston, Oh Cake!
That’s a Cake?!?!
“I like a challenge,” says Lucas Valley-based communications executive Michelle Heston, who creates astonishingly “hyper-realistic” cakes for her company, Oh Cake!. “Sometimes I lay in bed at night thinking about it.” Over the years, Heston has made hundreds of cakes in the likeness of everything from romaine lettuce to a Chanel shopping bag. Once she created a “stack of magazines” cake for a magazine launch, and someone tried to grab one. Heston, who comes from a big family of foodies, says she’s always loved making beautifully designed deserts. “Cake is the ultimate part of the meal!” she says. She started Oh Cake! in 2020 as a hobby, but says it has “morphed into a lucrative side-hustle.” Aside from baking for friends and family, she now makes up to four custom cakes a month.
True to size (20 lb.) carved Tahitian vanilla bean cake layers sandwiched between layers of vanilla buttercream. Sculpted turkey carved in a thin layer of textured (turkey skin) hand-painted fondant.
Pumpkin Pie Cake:
Pumpkin mousse cake, complete with sculpted and toasted fondant pie crust and decorative, seasonal leaves.
Debbie Faubel, Mill Valley Boards
“My work makes people smile,” says food-stylist and founder of Mill Valley Boards, Debbie Faubel. “We’re a little sophisticated, a little whimsical, and a lot of beauty.” Indeed, Faubel’s boards look like works of art; gorgeous and delicate blends of charcuterie, artisan cheeses, fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible wild flowers, full of details, textures and layers. From intimate occasions to 12-foot “grazing tables,” each board is unique, and intended to spark conversation and forge connections. “It started as a fun entertaining idea and organically flourished during Covid,” Faubel says. “Now it’s a full-time business.”
Pear (as turkey’s body) in a “pumpkin patch” of fresh goat cheese and displaying “feathers” of meats, cheeses, fruits and edible flowers.
In this edible bouquet, all the ingredients are shaped to mimic particular flowers.
“Arranging it was half the fun,” says award-winning cookbook author Lynda Balslev. From recipe development to styling to cooking to catering, Balslev has worn many hats in the food industry since attending cooking school in Paris in her 20s, but the intricately designed crudite/wreath was her first attempt at trompe l’oeil. “I love the dual play,” she says, “and that they both make sense for the occasion.” Balslev, who spent 17 years traveling and growing her business in Europe, has been living in Sausalito with her family for the past twelve years. Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday.
Crudité of vegetables, leaves, and fresh herbs.
Pumpkin spice lattes:
Butternut squash soup capped with spiced crema.
Basma Alyahya: Basma’s Wellness
Navigating a hectic life while still managing to prepare healthy food is easier than you think, according to Mill Valley-based health coach Basma Alyahya. “There are so many tips and tricks,” she says. “If I can do it, anyone can.” Alyahya’s company, Basma’s Wellness, offers one-on-one holistic health coaching and healthy-cooking classes for both adults and kids. Her latest offering, a hands-on sourdough workshop, covers the art and science of sourdough-bread making. “It will transform the way you think about bread,” she says. “I was making sourdough way before Covid,” she adds. “It’s full of health benefits!”
Pumpkin-shaped sourdough loaves:
One made with pumpkin puree and the other with turmeric.
Pomegranate juice and homemade elderberry syrup garnished with fresh mint.
Kate Plaskon: Sugar Cookie Kate
“Cookies are my creative outlet,” says San Rafael-based Plaskon. “I have a ridiculous amount of fun turning practically anything into a cookie.” Some of her favorite projects — what she calls ‘Cookie Stories’ — include the recipient’s favorite things, from foods to musicians to their beloved family pet. “I recently recreated a ceramic Picasso piece into edible art using a large cookie as the plate and royal icing transfers for the fish, lemon and fork, hand painting them to mimic Picasso’s glazes,” she says. On a larger scale, Plaskon has done hundreds of cookie favors for charities like Guide Dogs for the Blind and editorial work for Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn among others.
Napkins made out of Kate’s signature lemon-vanilla sugar cookies, iced and hand-painted to look like fabric napkins.
Stacey Dillon: 38north Design Co.
“I’ve been throwing parties for as long as I can remember,” says award-winning event planner Stacey Dillon. “Even as a child I loved to help my family entertain.” After many years in high tech project management, Dillon decided to shift her skills to managing weddings and events nearly two decades ago. In 2019, she decided to focus solely on Marin County. “This allowed me to have a work-life balance of staying close to home, as well helping folks celebrate amongst the beauty and magic Marin has to offer — whether they live here or are just visiting for their festivities,” she says. It’s also the origin of the company’s name, the latitude coordinate 38° for Marin.
Styling and design:
Gathered additional elements from Baked Blooms and Sugared Delights along with props and linens.