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Flødebollers from the future: the amazing creations of Kia Upton-Frank

Flødebollers from the future: the amazing creations of Kia Utzon-Frank

by Laura Martin 28 August 2018

Laura Martin sits down with one of Instagram’s baking superstars to find out how she creates her beautiful Brutalist biscuits and other-worldly Danish teacakes.

The Great British Bake Off is back, and while we're expecting some proper showstoppers from this year's contestants, no one in the country is making cakes quite like Kia Utzon-Frank.

The Danish-born, London-residing cook burst on to the baking scene in 2015 with her cosmic-looking marbled creations, spherical ‘concrete’ cakes and most recently, she's been making Brutalist biscuits – and now she wants to introduce the UK to the joy of the Danish Flødeboller.

First up: how to pronounce it. ‘It's flooh-de-buhl,’ she laughs, ‘but I'm thinking of changing the name of my ones, though.

Flødeboller literally means ‘cream buns’ but they're most similar in form to Tunnock's Teacakes. Over in Denmark, these tiny round meringue- and chocolate-topped wafers or biscuits are eaten practically non-stop – in fact, Kia tells me, the average Danish person eats fifty-two of these each year. This is a nation obsessed.

Before her experiments in making luxury versions of these flødeboller began, she first turned her hand to mastering the art of creating cakes with a highly unconventional decoration. Aged fifteen, she jumped into the deep end when she offered to make her cousin's wedding cake, that had to serve 150 people. ‘It was a crazy thing to do,’ she remembers. ‘I had never done it before and I didn't know any of the tricks, I was just making it up and figuring it out as I went along. But I do that all the time.’ It was a success, and she received her next wedding cake commission straight away.

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She primarily counts herself as a designer – she has trained as a goldsmith and has a background in architecture – and has been experimenting in the medium of cake since 2015, when an idea struck her about printing the texture of stonework onto food. ‘I tracked down some marzipan printers in Sweden, called them and asked them how much one printer would cost and it was like £120,000 or something, but they said 'there's a place in London that has one, so we can put you in contact'.’ So she created a print that resembled marble and granite and printed them on sheets of the almond-sugar paste, and started wrapping it around objects in her studio.

After posting a few pictures online they went viral. ‘After just a few days, I had six potential jobs for the cakes, including making 1,500 individual cakes for the launch of the Design Festival for the V&A Museum. Then I had to figure out the perfect cake to go within my designs.’

Sponge cakes were out of the question for being ‘too dry and boring’, and in the end she went for a Brazilian roll cake – bolo do rolo – which is sort of like a plain Swiss roll, but is usually made with a guava jam filling. ‘I always thought it's a shame that when you cut into a cake, you ruin the design of it. It's not pretty any more and the experience stops there, so I wanted to do something that was really amazing on the inside too.’

Kia says that flavour is as important to her as design, so she quite often experiments with different flavours in the cakes, jams and ganache within the outer design work. She even ended up baking a Sir Eduardo Paolozzi-themed cake for Sir Terence Conran in 2016: ‘It took months to design and then five fifteen-hour days to make. He was sitting behind me as I set it up at his party – my hands wouldn't stop shaking!’

Earlier this year, feeling a little homesick, she was reminded of the flødeboller of her childhood and decided updating them would be her next project. It pretty much takes a chocolatier – or at least someone trained to a high level of pastry chef – to make a teacake from scratch, but Kia taught herself using Youtube videos. ‘I really love being a beginner, you don't have rules because you don't know what you're allowed to do and what you can't do.’

While she set out to make her versions a deluxe product, she wanted to carry on the masonry theme that her cakes had become known for, so that meant using specialist moulds and figuring out a way to make chocolate look like concrete and marble. Through a lot of experimentation, she found that white chocolate with added charcoal and ground up sesame seeds did the trick and created a perfect matte grey treat. To make the marble-coated flødeboller, she added cocoa butter to the moulds, tempered the chocolate, and they came out looking like little shining planets whizzing through a galaxy far, far away.

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The meringue is made using an Italian-style recipe – which she often changes by adding in raspberry purée for a different colour and flavour – and she's swapped the wafer base for a very delicate marzipan, which is a world away from the bright yellow fodder of Christmas cakes we usually know it as. ‘Marzipan over here is only about 23 or 24% almond, so most people think they don't like it. In Denmark you can't call it marzipan unless it's at least 60% almond. It's completely different and tastes so much better.’

The Barbican – where else? – got in contact earlier this year and asked her if she wanted to host a series of masterclasses in which the public could make their own Brutalist-looking sweet treats. ‘It's great seeing people do the classes as they'll come up with something amazing and brand new that I haven't even thought about. It's a three-and-a-half-hour class, but it's not until the final ten minutes you get the big reveal – they're so happy and proud when they bang them out of the moulds.’

Kia's hoping that her delicate and delicious chocolate bites will be stocked in high-end grocery halls in the near future, and she's also eager for these to become the next trend for wedding favours. Forget doughnut walls or macarons in jewellery boxes; 2018 should be the year of the flødeboller instead. She's always open to new commissions and experimented recently with hanging a mesmeric circle of the marshmallow bites from a ceiling – something that would totally stop Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith in their tracks.

There's just one final odd tradition that comes with the flødeboller that might be a little harder to persuade a British audience to get on board with. Kia says it's customary to splat them into friends faces unexpectedly while they're eating them. ‘Because they're so cheap and the chocolate is so thin, it was just a fun thing to do. It still stays with me when I eat them now – I'm like, can I do this? I don't think I've quite got it out of my system yet!’

As I sit holding my individually wrapped marble flødeboller that Kia has just given me, I think now might just be a good time to leave.

Check out more of Kia's creations here or on her Instagram @kufstudios.

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